Jean-Jacques Rousseau regularly walked 20 miles in a single day. “I can scarcely think when I remain still,” he said. “My body must be in motion to make my mind active.” (As he walked, he’d jot down thoughts, large and small, on playing cards he always carried with him.)
Recent studies confirm Rousseau’s hunch. Our mind is at its most creative at three miles per hour, the speed of a moderately paced stroll. In one study, Stanford University psychologists Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz divided participants into two groups: walkers and sitters. They then administered a test designed to measure “divergent thinking,” an important component of creativity. They found that creative thinking was “consistently and significantly” higher for the walkers than the sitters. It didn’t take a lot of walking to boost creativity, either - anywhere from 5 to 16 minutes.
When we walk, posited the late psychologist Colin Martindale, we enter a state of “defocused attention.” Someone in this state is not scattered, at least not as we normally think of the word. They are both focused and unfocused at the same time.
People who walk regularly are healthier and live longer than those who don’t, several studies have found. And you needn’t walk very fast or far to enjoy this benefit. One recent study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, put the 10,000-step myth to rest. It is an arbitrary number. People - older adults in particular - accrue health benefits by taking only a few thousand steps each day, and at a leisurely pace.
Walking is a proven way to lose weight, not only by burning calories but also by reducing our appetite. A study by researchers at the University of Exeter found that a 15-minute walk “reduced chocolate urges” and, in turn, stress eating. Walking has also been shown to ease joint pain, boost immunity, and reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.
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Eric Weiner . National Geographic