The advocacy of walking meetings was an idea propagated by a certain Steve Jobs. According to his biography, Jobs said that walking helped him to have a serious conversation.
More recently, studies have backed up the anecdotes as scientific facts. Walking increases energy levels, reduces stress and can boost communication.
The most recent research, conducted by scientists with the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Rochester used a Mobile Brain/Body Imaging (MoBI) system to investigate how the brain functions in everyday life.
MoBI is a platform that combines virtual reality with brain monitoring and motion capture technology capable of taking precise measurements. Suffice to say, it can deliver pretty accurate data for measuring brain activity whilst walking.
Participants were given a series of mental tasks to perform whilst they walked on a treadmill. They were then given similar tasks to perform whilst sitting.
The researchers found that “the brain is flexible and can take on additional burdens” whilst walking. As a matter of fact, the more difficult the task is, the more neurophysiological difference was greater. Focusing on a problem even made people more stable as they walked.
The latest research supports the findings of a 2014 Stanford study that determined walking is better than sitting for generating creative ideas by as much as 60%.
The Stanford study examined creative output in relation to the capacity to come up with a variety of creative ideas and possible solutions. Not only that, but the effect was deemed to continue even once the walk is over.
So if you’re having a problem at work or in your personal life, it seems as though walking will help you generate a solution. There are countless anecdotes throughout history to support this also. Einstein, Tchaikovsky, Darwin, and Dickens are all known to take walks to help stimulate their creative juices or confront complex problems.
But what is it about walking that makes us more creative?
The answer to that teaser has never been satisfactorily proven. The most likely answer is that when the brain is not distracted by other stimuli – like a busy office – the capacity for creative thinking is heightened.
We know that relaxing the brain can trigger the creative part of your subconscious mind – especially in nature. It is believed that the silence and presence of walking helps to pull inspiration out from the depths belonging to the higher self.
However, we can also be creative and find inspiration by focusing on a problem as well. Perhaps the answer to the unanswerable question lays somewhere in the middle, but there is no doubt that both methods work.
What we do know is that medical researchers have shown on countless occasions that taking a short walk each day helps to keep the brain healthy. Moderate-intensity exercise helps to support the overall resilience of cognitive functioning – which ultimately support the brain’s capacity for problem-solving.