|Researchers at Stanford University suggest going for a walk when trapped in a creative rut at the office.
In a new study, Daniel L. Schwartz and Marily Oppezzo found that participants who took regular walks experienced an 81 percent increase in certain cognitive tests. A group of 176 people, most of them enrolled in university studies, were examined.
The study, published in the May 2014 edition of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition shed light on an idea that has intrigued academics for quite some time.
Virginia Woolf, Friedrich Nietzsche and Aristotle all included walks as a regular part of their creative programs. In business, chief innovators like Jack Dorsey, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs have used the walking meeting in their repertoire. President Obama has made quite a few laps around the White House with his Chief of Staff to contemplate the major matters of the world.
In one experiment, for example, participants were submitted to an alternate usage test. Given a four-minute time period, they were asked to name as many uses as possible for objects such as a button, a tire and a newspaper. In another experiment, participants were given the task of offering analogies and tying them to specific concepts.
Thankfully for cubicle-bound employees, the benefits of a short walk are unrelated to location. The researchers found that participants felt a spring of creativity when walking on a treadmill in a windowless, dark room. Even for those employees who are trapped inside their office building all day, it’s a good idea to insert walks into a lunchtime routine or during breaks. If a walking meeting turns out to be too awkward, taking a few hundred steps beforehand is an excellent choice as well.
Funding for the Stanford University study was offered by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, as well as the school’s Education Dissertation Support Grant.