Whenever I need to think, I either go for a walk or I pace around the room. Have you ever noticed yourself doing this? The response i get from people when I ask them this question is actually relatively surprising. I used to think I was a little odd for pacing to help me think or come up with a creative idea. It seems though that a decent amount of people also found respite in knowing that they aren't the only people who look like they're possessed by a demon who methodically walks endlessly across a room and back. I was curious as to why going for a walk, or pacing back and forth, helps push us forward in a creative direction. At the very least I'd like to know why we think it helps us get out of a creative funk.
As it turns out, there's a study out of Stanford that tested this very thing. The study took 176 students and put them through various different experiments to see whether or not walking has an effect on your creative output. They were broken down into four groups, two of which were indoors and the other two were tested outdoors. The two indoor groups were split into one that face against a blank walk while sitting and the other group walked on a treadmill also staring at a blank wall in front of them. The outdoor groups were divided by those simply walking outside and another group who were being pushed in a wheelchair outside.
You can read all of the details over here, but I wanted to point out some of the key results here. The study found that a majority of people were more creative while walking rather than sitting down. In one instance during the two different indoor tests, the one where the person was walking on a treadmill, even though they were just facing a blank wall, had 60% more creative output on the tests than the person sitting indoors facing a blank wall. That's a very large difference, but not as much as this other experiment. In that experiment, they tested the ability of the students to come up with the most creative analogy. The people walking outside in this test performed twice as well as those sitting inside.
Although, the study also found that while walking greatly benefitted your ability to creatively brainstorm, it had no effect on your ability to hone in on a single task and come up with a solution for it. So if you're completely stuck in a rut without an idea in sight, walking might help you out of it. If you need an answer to a specific question on the other hand, while walking won't necessarily hurt, it also won't help either. At the end of the day, not only is walking beneficial for your health, it also has a positive effect on your creativity. Try implenting walking throughout the day. Anything from walking meetings to pacing around your office to taking a walk around the block could end up giving you that creative edge that you need. If you have any other ways that you've found to help kick start your creativity, then let me know in the comments below. I'm always looking for ways to increase my productivity and I'm sure there are others who'd love to know as well. ^_^