Numerous studies have shown that cardiovascular conditioning improves memory, attention, and complex reasoning skills.
Many people also notice that some of their best ideas come to them not while they’re sitting staring at the computer screen, but while they’re outside taking a walk.
Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz of the Stanford Graduate School of Education decided to study whether this impression held true when assessed systematically.
They put volunteers in an empty room with only a desk and a treadmill, and asked them to think up different uses for common objects, which is a standard test of creativity.
The volunteers were able to come up with many more uses for the objects when they were walking on the treadmill as opposed to sitting at the desk.
The researchers also wanted to determine whether enjoying scenery during a walk might stir creative juices.
They compared volunteers’ creativity levels while sitting or walking around the Stanford campus to their creativity levels back inside the room with the desk and treadmill.
Volunteers who walked the campus were more creative than those sitting either outside or inside the office, but no more creative than the volunteers walking the indoor treadmill.
The results suggest that the physiological effects of aerobic exercise stimulate neural circuits that control creative thinking.
So next time you have writer’s block or get stumped solving a perplexing problem, take a walk. Or if the weather’s bad, you can stay indoors and use a treadmill to enjoy the same creative boost.
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