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Apr 25, 2014 09:20 AM EDT

Creative Responses Flow While Walking Than Sitting, Study

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Racking your brains for ideas at your work desk? Take a quick walk to get those creative juices flowing, a Stanford University's Graduate School of Education study says.

Researchers said that free-flowing thoughts in the brain are triggered while walking than when being seated. Walking not only helps people flex their muscles or distress but also helps them get in touch with their creative side.

"Asking someone to take a 30-minute run to improve creativity at work would be an unpopular prescription for many people," study researcher Daniel L. Schwartz, Ph.D., said in a statement. "We wanted to see if a simple walk might lead to more free-flowing thoughts and more creativity."

For the study, the researchers asked 48 college students to participate in two experiments separately while sitting and while walking.

In the first one, participants were asked to determine alternate purposes of common items like a button or tyre while sitting facing a blank wall. This was conducted to gauge creativity in the respondents.

In the second test, the participants listened to two sets of three words and had four minutes per set to give as many responses as possible. The participants were asked to guess the word from a combination of three other words. For example the answer for "cottage," "Swiss" and "cake," would then be "cheese."

Some of the participants just sat while giving the tests, some walked and some took a walk and came back to give the test.

The researchers found that the creative response was 60 percent higher in participants that walked than those who were seated for the experiments.

"Participants came up with fewer novel ideas when they sat for the second test set after walking during the first. However, they did perform better than the participants who sat for both sets of tests, so there was a residual effect of walking on creativity when people sat down afterward. Walking before a meeting that requires innovation may still be nearly as useful as walking during the meeting," Marily Oppezzo, PhD, of Santa Clara University, said in a press release.

In a third experiment, participants completed a set of tasks while walking (inside or outside) on a treadmill, being seated inside or pushed in a wheelchair outdoors. The researchers found that the walking irrespective of the location generated more creative thoughts than sitting inside or being pushed in a wheelchair outdoors.

"While being outdoors has many cognitive benefits, walking appears to have a very specific benefit of improving creativity," said Oppezzo.

Researchers said that further studies are required to explain the beneficial effect of walking on creativity."Incorporating physical activity into our lives is not only beneficial for our hearts but our brains as well. This research suggests an easy and productive way to weave it into certain work activities," Oppezzo said.

The finding is published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition.

Previous studies showed that regular aerobic exercise protect cognitive abilities.

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