From artists to office workers, people in all walks of life claim that going for a stroll helps them work out ideas or overcome creative blocks, and now new research finds that stretching one’s legs really does give a mental boost.
“Many people anecdotally claim they do their best thinking whenÂ walking,” study researcher Marily Oppezzo, of Santa Clara University, said in a statement. “With this study, we finally may be taking a step or two toward discovering why.”
Creative types have extolled the virtues of walking for centuries. In fact, several musicians were almost superstitious in their devotion to daily walks, according toÂ the new book “Daily Rituals“Â (Knopf, 2014) compiled by editor Mason Currey. Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky took a two-hour walk each day regardless of the weather, and Ludwig van Beethoven regularly went for a brisk stroll after lunch.
The habit was hardly restricted to composers. Novelist Charles Dickens was an avid pedestrian, and the philosopher SÃ¸ren Kierkegaard once wrote, “I have walked myself into my best thoughts.” Even the rigid daily schedule that Charles Darwin adopted later in life included time for three short walks.
To test if there is any merit to this widely held belief that walkingÂ somehow stimulates the mind, Oppezzo and a colleague recruited dozens of people, mostly college students, for a few experiments at Stanford University.