In the early days of the pandemic, a bunch of my friends took up walking. Some of the most hyper-productive business owners — the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, who you might expect would be planted in a chair in front of a computer — they all started walking 10-plus miles every morning while on calls. It was awesome to hear. We’d get on the phone and they’d be trekking around, moving and thinking.
The Benefits of Walking: A Deeper Dive Into Movement and Thought
That got me curious about movement and cognition, as I believe our health, wellness, and success is directly related to blood circulation. Our bodies obviously become healthier the more we move. What doesn’t get as much attention is the fact that the quality of cognition when moving is far superior to the thoughts that develop when standing (or worse, sitting) still. This makes complete sense, as Spartan was birthed this very way: The idea was generated on my farm in Vermont during moments of solitude and movement up the mountain.
And I’m not the only one to experience a thought breakthrough during movement. Einstein, Beethoven, Dickens, and Thoreau ALL credit their big ideas to walking, which is fascinating, sure, but what’s the science behind it? What is it about walking and moving that drives creativity and innovation? The answer: blood flow.
Breaking Down the Science
“The answer begins with changes to our chemistry," The New Yorker's Ferris Jab writesWhen we go for a walk, the heart pumps faster, circulating more blood and oxygen to the muscles and organs, including the brain ... Walking at our own pace creates an unadulterated feedback loop between the rhythm of our bodies and our mental state.”
This unique personal rhythm, delivered by walking, allows us to take in the environment around us in a larger, landscaped view, creating idea breakthroughs, or what the creative community calls creative ideation.
Not convinced yet? Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz of Stanford University published a set of studies measuring how walking affects creativity. They had a large number of college students complete different tests while doing the following: sitting, walking on a treadmill, or walking outside.
"Most of the participants benefited from walking compared with sitting, and the average increase in creative output was around 60 percent ... When walking, people generated more uses, and more of those uses were novel and appropriate,” one study concluded.
This is music to my ears. When I moved to Vermont and was still trading on behalf of my firm on Wall Street, I had four monitors and my chair was a stationed bicycle. I would lean on the armrests to type and wouldn’t stop pedaling. My legs kept going around and around, but I could feel the benefits. People thought I was crazy, but I swore it increased my own thought process. My blood started pumping, the oxygen was flowing, and BAM! I was laser focused.
The Productivity Hack
Ask yourself the following question: How many minutes of the day do you spend sitting at your desk and zoning out? Staring at the computer and then finding yourself on Google or Facebook, watching funny cat videos? Come on! It’s such wasted time! The idea of sitting and doing work is an antiquated idea, and certainly not Spartan. It was probably recommended by someone selling chairs back in 2680 B.C., when they were invented in Egypt.
My life’s mission is to get people up and moving. I want you training, and I also know that movement is about so much more — and can be activated at all times. Forget about being chained to your desk, your kitchen table, or — even worse — your couch. Want to level up your thinking, boost your creativity, and actually act on that business idea you’ve been sitting on for weeks? Then get up, go for a walk, and let the genius arrive.