The link between walking and creativity

Being creative is great, until the creativity fails to show up. Then it’s not so great.

We’ve all been there – desperately trying to write, draw, paint or even solve a problem but the brain refuses to cooperate. No matter how hard we try.

It’s frustrating and demotivating. It’s also the exact time to walk away – literally.

Here’s how walking can boost creativity.

Walking and creativity

First, let’s take a look at the science.

A study by Stanford University found that walking can improve creative output by 60 per cent, particularly at the beginning stages of a creative idea.

The reason for this is the actual physical movement of walking – no matter where that might be.

In fact, researchers recorded similar results from people walking indoors on a treadmill and participants walking outside in nature.

Both types of walking produced twice as many creative responses compared to a person sitting down.

Even better, the study found that the boost in creative output from walking continues once people sit back down again. At least for a short amount of time.

This means the ability to be creative and generate new ideas is higher when moving than when sitting still.

If there was ever a reason to get up from a desk and go for a walk, this is it – whether you consider yourself to be creative or not.

Creative inspiration

While this research is not new (published 2014), the results have yet to challenged.

It also confirms a long-held belief by many people around the world (myself included) that walking is not only good for physical health, but also for fostering creativity.

There is just something so satisfying about getting lost in the motion of putting one foot in front of the other and letting the mind wander. Especially outside in the fresh air.

It’s relaxing, refreshing and rejuvenating, and provides a welcome change of scene during a long workday.

Plus, in times of stress and uncertainty (hello coronavirus) it’s the perfect antidote to mental fatigue – no matter what type of work you do.

Don’t just take my word for it though.

Try it out for yourself with these top tips to getting started:

  • Invest in comfortable shoes (walking boots or trainers) – preferably something waterproof so there is no excuse for going outside for a walk.
  • Leave work behind – it’s amazing what the mind can do when you give it some space.
  • Try listening to music or a podcast for inspiration – like the Being Freelance podcast by Steve Folland.

If nothing else, going for a walk will give your mind a well-earned break. This means you can return to your desk refreshed and, hopefully, with new ideas.

Looking for more creative inspiration? Subscribe to the newsletter for writing tips, exclusive Q&As and insights into international living. Direct to your inbox once a month.