111 Walking and Creative Thinking

Based on research by Oppezzo & Schwartz. written
by Kyle Piecora, M.S.

Having a hard time solving a problem or thinking about a project?  Go for a stroll!

Stanford psychologists, Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz completed four experiments to see if walking boosted creative thinking.  Two kinds of problems were used. For the divergent thinking tasks, which aimed to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions, the subjects thought of alternate uses for everyday items. For the convergent thinking tasks which involves coming up with the single, well-established answer to a problem or question that does not require significant creativity,, the subjects thought  of a word that three other words had in common.

Walking on a treadmill indoors, 81 percent of the participants were more creative on the divergent thinking tasks than when sitting, but only 21 percent more successful than when sitting on the convergent problem solutions. When seated after walking they had a creative boost on divergent thinking tasks. When participants walked or were pushed sitting in a wheelchair outside, 100 percent created more novel and higher quality analogies when walking compared to sitting.  Both sitters and walkers were more creative outdoors than indoors!  Walking opens up the free flow ideas, and outdoor stimulation adds to productivity.

If you are feeling stuck, walk outside for stimulation, exercise and generating creative ideas!


Oppezzo, M. & Schwartz, D. L.  (2014).  Give your ideas some legs: The positive effect of walking on creative thinking.  Journal of Experimental Psychology, DOI: 10.1037/a0036577.

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