Walking Matters

TreeI happened to hear an interesting interview entitled Why Walking Matters on WBUR’s Here & Now program last week. Host, Jeremy Hobson interviewed psychiatrist and author, John J. Ratey, They discussed a recent Stanford University study finding that walking enhances creativity. Read or listen to the complete interview here.

Last December, I wrote a post entitled Walking, Fast and Slow. In it, I referenced an article I had read espousing that walking at a brisk pace is better for us than walking slowly. In other words, intensity matters.

One of my earlier posts on walking was a recount of my own lifelong walking habits instilled in me by my father. By focusing on my stride and the surroundings, I use walking as a way to solve problems and fuel creativity.

In the Here & Now interview, Hobson points out that Dr. Ratey is a fan of walking with no purpose. In fact, they conducted their interview while walking aimlessly outdoors. Ratey says that walking aimlessly, rather than walking with a clear goal, is extremely beneficial for our brains. Our thoughts will be more creative and we’ll hold onto those thoughts much longer.

So, my new goal is to intersperse my own goal-oriented walking rituals with aimless walking episodes at least twice a week. That’s not too much to ask of myself, especially at this time of year.

I jumped right to it yesterday. Instead of my usual route along city sidewalks, I took an aimless and inspiring walk in a heavily wooded park. Rather than focusing on my stride, or on “getting there,” I just enjoyed being outside in the lovely, natural surroundings. The rest of the day, I was clear-headed and content.

Where is your favorite place for aimless walking?

by Rebecca Cochran

Walking, Fast and Slow

Walkby Rebecca Cochran

What is it about walking? It’s a topic that shows up in the news often. I wrote about the benefits of walking in this space not long ago. In my post, I refer to walking as “nature’s cure-all.” A daily walk allows me to solve problems and experience creative breakthroughs.

Walking is also a popular research topic.

According to a new study by a group of Dutch researchers from Leiden University, “physical activity increases our ability to think flexibly.” Their research found that those who engage in regular exercise are more likely to excel in creative thinking, both convergent and divergent, than those who don’t. Check out the study results here.

Coincidently, last week, I caught a post on The New York Times’ “Well” blog entitled “Why a Brisk Walk is Better.” The author, Gretchen Reynolds, refers to another new study revealing that although walking fast or slow is certainly good exercise, walking at a brisk pace is better. In other words, intensity matters. Read her post here.

In his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, author and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, Daniel Kahneman, recounts a study conducted in a German university. The study found that students who were asked to walk around a room at a pace much slower than their normal pace, caused those students to quickly relate to words and concepts having to do with old age.

Walking is natural and effortless (for most of us). Years ago, I made it a part of my daily routine. I’m convinced that good things come to those who walk – fast or slow.

I’d like to hear from you. How do you use walking to enhance your life?