Let’s face it, sometimes those brilliant ideas just don’t come easily. Whether we’re writing a paper, a book, or just trying to come up with an original birthday gift, we’ve all been stuck waiting for inspiration to find us.

Finding a solution to these creative blocks is no easy task, but a group of researchers at Standford University set out to do just that. To figure out how to get our creative juices flowing, researchers first considered data showing that exercise prevents cognitive decline. Next, they focused on more short-term mental improvement, and the long-held idea that walking increases creativity.

Their experiments are fascinating, and may be exceedingly practical in application. Here’s what the tests showed, and how to use it for your own creative benefit.

To start, the scientists tested creativity before and after walking on a treadmill. In 81% of the participants, creative output increased after walking, with the average subject increasing output by 60%. In essence, a few minutes of walking substantially increased the subject’s ability to see things from different angles, facilitating new perspective. This effect was later shown to endure even after people stopped walking, a welcome bit of data for those who can’t work while they stroll.

To see if these effects decreased with subsequent walking, they tested people who walked multiple times. After walking, testing, then walking and testing again, there were two spikes in creativity. This lack of attenuation implies that walking multiple times may further increase creativity.


Next, the researchers wanted to see if walking outside was more powerful than indoors. They had their subjects walk either inside or outside, and found that there were no conclusive differences in the creativity between groups, which is good news for anyone stuck indoors. The final part of the experiment tested the difference between walking outside and being pushed around outside in a wheelchair. The results showed that only walking led to the bump in high quality creativity previously described, meaning that simply being outside isn’t enough.

This research is interesting, and immediately applicable for anyone needing a creative spark. Here are the keys to using this data for your own gain.

1. Taking a short walk may increase your creativity.

2. Walking indoors is just as good as walking outside.

3. You can expect a creative bump to last for a bit after you walk.

4. If you’re not yet where you want to be, try again! Walking twice may be even more helpful than one time.

5. Just being outside isn’t enough to trigger inspiration, you need to actually walk your way to creativity.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

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