The Power of the Long Walk

Long Walk 7.8.15

Story provided by 99U – 

No true panacea exists for the struggles and challenges of the modern working creative. But there’s one practice that comes close: walking.

Neuroscientist Andrew Tate writes in a post on Canva’s blog of the many benefits of taking long walks:

It will help make you more creative.

A 2014 study from Stanford University in the US has shown that people are much more creative when they are walking around as opposed to when they are sitting still. Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz… found that when people were walking, either on the treadmill or outdoors, they were 60% more creative than when sitting around.

It’s a great way to communicate.

Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg both like[d] first meetings with people to be on the move. This is because a walking conversation is so much more natural and distraction-free than most other types of meetings…. [I]t is likely that the increased blood flow helps you to come up with not only more creative ideas and solutions to problems, but also helps you express those ideas more fluently and helps you communicate with co-workers.

You will be following in the footsteps of giants.

Beethoven was an avid walker,… spending his afternoons wandering around Vienna. He always took a pencil and paper with him to write down anything that struck him…. Another of history’s walking enthusiasts was Charles Dickens. Whether in London or at his country house in Kent he always took long walks…. Dickens could rack up 30 miles a day. [H]e created some of his most remarkable and memorable characters when out walking.

[A]nother Charles, Charles Darwin,… had a gravel path installed at his home, not unlike a race track, that he would walk around each day as he thought about problems…. He would stack stones at the start of his walk and the knock them down one by one as he went round, describing the difficulty of the problem as a three, four, or five-flint problem…. Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter and now heading up digital finance company Square, takes all new hires at Square for his ‘Gandhi walk’ on their first Friday. This is an epic walk through the streets of San Francisco to the Square offices while he espouses on the guiding principles behind Square.

So ideas flourish on the move, whether they’re lightbulbs for future projects or innovative solutions to existing problems. You can also articulate those ideas more clearly, whether to yourself or to a walking companion, when you’re mobile.

But there’s another powerful benefit to walking. When your brain is completely overloaded and you need to take a life time-out and hit the reset button, nothing will accomplish that better than logging some cleansing miles on foot, solo. No phone, no headphones, no wallet (lest you see something that you’re distractedly tempted to buy). The long walk is a therapeutic tool to not only power up your mind but also to recharge its battery. Which, in turn, leads to much greater creativity once you’ve rebooted. When’s the last time you set out alone on a walk, with no destination in mind, no technological tools in your pockets or ears, and nothing to ruminate over? It might just be all you need.


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