Do you need new ideas? Take a walk (or run)

  • The most interesting human achievements always arise from ideas.
  • Movement stimulates creativity, and walking increases the number of innovative ideas compared to sitting.
  • Develop ideas in motion. Annotate, elaborate, evaluate later. After running you can make better decisions.


The most interesting works that mankind has produced have always stemmed from ideas. It is said that the difference between dreaming and doing things lies in this proportion: 1% ideas, 99% execution. Having an idea counts for 1% of its implementation. That one percent still has to be had, though, right?

How to get new ideas? Given that you are reading this article on a site called “RUNLovers” some suspicion must have come to you by now. You’re not on “CouchLovers” in fact, and I’m not going to tell you that in order to come up with a good idea-to think well and productively, ultimately-you have to sit on the couch staring at a spot on the horizon.

Move (and think)

The idea to explore how much movement produces new ideas came to Marily Oppezzo, a Stanford researcher in the area of behavior and learning. To show that sedentariness and movement have very different influences on the creative process, they selected candidates who were asked to think of new uses for a common object such as, for example, a key. The only limitation was that their proposals had to be appropriate (you couldn’t say in short that a key was good for scratching the car of someone you couldn’t stand 😉) and they had to be innovative.

The candidates were divided into three groups, and the test was conducted in two phases: the first group sat for both phases, the second group first sat and then ran on a threadmill, and the third group did the opposite.

The results confirmed the thesis: the group that remained seated developed on average half as many propositions as the one that had walked, exactly the same as the group that remained seated in the first phase. In the second round, the group that sat through the first round also did not come up with anything new (so the experience did not work put well) while the group that was stationary in the first round and moving in the second round improved greatly. Finally, the third group, who sat in the second stage, still developed more ideas than the first one who had always sat still, signifying that it still had creative reserve from the first “moving” stage.

A method

Such comforting results-which, after all, confirm the thesis we have already explored that running (or moving) makes you “smarter”-made Oppezzo think of developing a simple method for thinking when you are on the move. It consists of different steps, all of which are very simple:

  • Don’t stop at the first idea that comes to you but continue to develop it
  • Annotate them, at least vocally: by now with your cell phone you can do it even when you walk/run
  • You will think about it later: have you produced so many ideas? The important thing is that you have noted them down. Discussing them or evaluating whether they are good will come later
  • Don’t do it endlessly: if you don’t get any ideas after a while despite walking/running, don’t worry, it happens! Try again, you will be luckier.

You are made to move

The ideas you can develop with movement do not have to be only about work but also about your life. It is no coincidence that it is said that before making an important decision it is best to take a run. Oppezzo goes so far as to enunciate a version of the same advice more circumscribed to work: do you have an important meeting? Go there by walking. Take an extra 15 minutes and don’t come to it with a cold mind. To “warm up” and come prepared with new and fresh ideas, there is nothing better than having walked for a while first.

And finally-and this is advice we give you-when there is some thought that grips you and seems to have no solution, the best thing is always to get out. Walking, or running. If the workout you do is not so demanding that it requires all your concentration, the smart thing to do is to use the time to run. Or walking. And to think.

The ideas are out there-you will never get them if you stand still.

(Photo by Arek Adeoye on Unsplash)



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