Study Reveals A Surprising Benefit Of Walking Every Day

Underrated, surprisingly effective, and free, the health benefits of walking are well-documented. However, walking may have other benefits beyond just getting you in shape and improving your overall health. A team of researchers recently found that regular walks — as well as other moderate exercises — increases creativity and cognitive flexibility (via Scientific Reports).

Prior to the Scientific Reports study, most research focused on fitness as it related to life expectancy, stress levels, or mood. But, while this study replicated some of those results, it also indicated that workouts don't need to be especially vigorous to be beneficial. In fact, all kinds of everyday physical activity, including walking, casual sports, and sex, are beneficial to creative flow.

Interestingly, the current study didn't indicate a correlation between mood, creativity, and physical activity. In reviewing the findings, The New York Times noted, "People could walk often and be quite creative but not especially happy, suggesting that it was not improved moods that most influenced creativity. It was moving."

Walking can help trigger a state of flow

Many of us have been walking since before we could remember, so the actual act doesn't take up much mental space. That allows our brain to utilize those cognitive resources for other endeavors (via Eat This, Not That!). That mental state, called flow, has long been associated with creativity. Described as a feeling of being "carried... along effortlessly throughout the activity," flow maximizes the effort being put into a task by rewarding the participant with a sense of inspiration, ease, and efficacy (via Positive Psychology). In other words, you get more done with less effort, and the output tends to be better.

To maximize the benefits of activity for creative flow, you only need to aim for moderately vigorous exercises. Take your walks outside to compound exercise with the benefits of fresh air and sunshine. A change of scenery may be just what you need to get the ideas flowing again.