Looking for that spark of creativity to take you out of a slump? Get off the couch and go for a walk, scientists say.
Researchers at Stanford University who analyzed the creativity level of people while they sat and, again, while they walked say they saw a 60 percent increase in creative output during walking.
Walking outdoors or indoors both resulted in a boost in creative inspiration, suggesting it was the act of walking, not where it was done, that was the significant factor, researchers Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz found.
"Many people anecdotally claim they do their best thinking when walking. We finally may be taking a step, or two, toward discovering why," they said in their study appearing in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition.
The late Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, was known to favor walking meetings, and Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has been known to hold strolling confabs.
In experiments at Stanford, study participants who walked indoors using a treadmill, with nothing to look at but an empty wall, double the amount of creative responses to tests and questions compared to someone sitting down, the researchers said.
The same was found in participants who were walking outdoors, they said.
"I thought walking outside would blow everything out of the water, but walking on a treadmill in a small, boring room still had strong results, which surprised me," said Oppezzo, a former Stanford doctoral graduate researcher in educational psychology who is now a professor of psychology at Santa Clara University.
Participants were given a number of tests and tasks while walking to gauge their creativity, including a word-association task, a common method of measuring focused thinking and insight.
A response was defined as creative if it was original, meaning no one else in the study had come up with it, and appropriate to the test or task at hand, Oppezzo said.
The next step in the research, she said, is to try to understand the exact reason for the existence of a link between walking and creativity. "That is what we don't know," she said.
Although that remains unknown, there's no doubt it exists, she said.
"Everyone always says going on a walk gives you new ideas, but nobody had ever proved it before."
"We're not saying walking can turn you into Michelangelo," she said. "But it could help you at the beginning stages of creativity."