More movement – more creativity

10 September

Steve Jobs was famous for his “walking meetings,” a Silicon Valley tradition, continued by Mark Zuckerberg. But have you ever wondered why walking during the workday is so popular among world’s biggest technology tycoons? Or why sometimes you feel that pacing back and forth helps with getting “un-stuck” from some mental trap?

Think of your brain as a muscle. The same way you work your body out to get more fit, the same way your brain needs some physical challenge to work better. Marily Opezzo, a Stanford doctoral graduate, and Daniel Schwartz, a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education have found that walking helps boost your creativity. They conducted their studies on almost 200 people, including college students, and have discovered that those who walked instead of sitting gave more creative answers on the test that are commonly being used for measuring creative approach – like finding a new use for an everyday object or coming up with original analogies to capture complex ideas. Of the students tested, 100% have figured out more creative ideas in one experiment, while 95%, 88%, and 81% in the other three tests had more creative responses compared with when they were sitting.

How does it work?

One of the reasons for the advanced creativity might be the activation of the part of the brain called STS. The STS has been found to activate when we notice biological motion, like a human walking across a street or a bird fluttering nearby. Interestingly, the STS is located in the temporal lobe, which is a primary control center for creative thinking. The link between the STS being where it is and the act of physical walking may be enough to indicate that perceived (or even imagined) motion is the fuel that sparks creative ideas – any activity in the temporal lobe is linked to some sort of a creative output.

Find help in nature!

Speaking of observing motion: scientists and creative workers claim that being surrounded by nature is the best way to get all of your creative potential out. Ruth Ann Atchley, associate professor of cognitive and clinical psychology at the University of Kansas, who studied hikers and their level of creativity after four days of hiking in nature, explains that nature is a place where our mind can rest, relax and let down those threat responses. Therefore, we have resources left over – to be creative, to be imaginative, to problem solve.

Leave your desk and wander

Unfortunately, nowadays desk jobs are a norm for the increasing amount of people – from writers, bloggers, and designers to engineers and developers. What it means is that a person spends a good amount of their day sitting in one position (unless they are a lucky user of a nifty thing called “a standing desk”).

Apparently, this isn’t the way to go. Physical exercise has a tremendous effect on brain activity, from molecular to the behavioral level, and even 20 minutes of short aerobic exercise stimulates memory function and processing of information in your brain. Exercise boosts your heart rate, which, in its turn, pumps more oxygen into your “thinking muscle” which it needs to function. It also helps release plenty different hormones that help grow new brain cells and neuronal connections.

Introduce regularity

Moreover, you should exercise regularly; that way you improve your memory and thinking skills. Researchers have found that regular aerobic exercise boosts the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning. Interestingly, resistance training, balance and muscle toning exercises did not have the same results.

But in reality, nobody knows exactly which exercise is best. What we know for a fact though is that almost all of the research has looked at walking. But you can do whatever you feel like doing – jogging, squash, cycling or playing fetch with your dog will do just fine.

How much is enough?

In the University of British Columbia study the participants walked briskly for one hour, twice a week. That’s 120 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week, while standard recommendations advise half an hour of moderate physical activity most days of the week, so 150 minutes a week. If that seems like too much, start small, with a few minutes a day. Then increase the amount you exercise by 10 minutes every week until you have reached your goal.

A final touch

Last, but not least: if you’re planning your “creative session”, make sure you have a way to document your ideas. Equip yourself with Senstone! This tiny device is designed to help you keep track of your ideas, to-do lists, and notes while you’re on the go. It automatically transcribes and organizes your voice notes so that you can conveniently access them later. Learn more about Senstone