Take a walk to summon your creativity

Remarkable historical figures took walks to boost productivity - take a walk to stir up creative juices

It has been observed that a number of renowned historical figures resorted to walks as a means to augment their productivity. The practice of walking has been noted to trigger creativity, thereby improving overall productivity. It may therefore be wise to incorporate walking into one's daily routine, as it has the potential to yield significant benefits. Grab your sneakers and read on to learn more.

“It is quite possible to leave your home for a walk in the early morning air and return a different person – beguiled, enchanted.” 
Mary Ellen Chase

Are you tired of feeling drained and unproductive after hours of sitting and working on a project? Do you find yourself struggling to come up with fresh ideas and feeling like your creativity has hit a wall you can’t seem out escape? There might be a simple solution that you have overlooked, and it does not require any supplements, workshops, or books to read. Sometimes, a quick walk outside might be all you need to get your creative juices flowing! Research has shown that outdoor walking can provide numerous physiological and psychological benefits. Taking a walk can help clear your head, improve cognitive processes, and stimulate creativity. By incorporating regular walk breaks into your workday, you can increase your personal productivity and that of your team.

“If you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking. Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk.”

Raymond Inmon

Did you know that nature environment interventions can positively impact cognitive performance in students? A recent review of 12 studies conducted on school children and adolescents revealed that these benefits were observed across different exposure methods, leading to improvements in working memory capacity and attention (Vella-Brodrick & Gilowska, 2022). Not only that, but research has proven that walking outdoors is more effective at boosting creativity compared to sitting, as it contributes to the generation of more expansive ideas (Oppezzo & Schwartz, 2014).

“Walking is man's best medicine!”


It is interesting to note that throughout history, many famous politicians, artists, scientists, philosophers, and other notable historical figures have taken nature walks to help them think through problems. They have also been known to have walking meetings. In a 2015 study, university students were divided into two groups - one group ran on an indoor treadmill and the other group ran in an outdoor green forest. The researchers found that participants from the outdoor forest run group showed increased creativity. The study concluded that “the combination of a natural environment and exercise consistently enhances cognitive activities related to creativity” (Kimura et al., 2023, p.7).

Even if you live in an urban area with limited access to green spaces, a study by Scott et al. (2023) has shown that positive affect increased and negative affect decreased regardless of whether individuals were exposed to green or urban environments during a walk. Additionally, the study found that memory and cognitive performance improved after a walk, as evidenced by the results of a pre- and post-OSPAN test, thus emphasizing the cognitive benefits of physical activity.

“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”

Friedrich Nietzsche, German Philosopher

Don't underestimate the power of a good walk. Throughout history, remarkable figures have taken strolls to boost their productivity and get their creative juices flowing. Why not follow in their footsteps?

  • Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle used to lecture students while walking with them. He founded a school of philosophy known as "The Peripatetic", and his followers were called Peripatetics, which means 'to walk around' in Greek.

  • Scientist Charles Darwin used to take long walks on a Sandwalk, or his 'thinking path', outside his countryside estate Down House.

  • Author Charles Dickens walked around London at night to alleviate his insomnia and wrote about his observations and thoughts during these walks in "Night Walks and Other Essays".

  • The famous Austrian psychologist and "father of psychoanalysis", Sigmund Freud, also took walks with his patients during therapy sessions, which became known as 'Freudian Walks'. It allowed some of his patients to speak more candidly, foregoing the standard face to face sessions requiring consistent eye contact. Freud also took regular walks after lunch in his local park, part of it is now named the Sigmund Freud Park, located in Vienna.

  • Many leaders like Former President Barack Obama and Apple’s Steve Jobs preferred walking meetings. 

  • The Philosophy' Walk 'Philosophenweg' in Heidelberg, Germany is a beautiful path that originated from an old vineyard route and has been cherished by philosophers, poets, professors, and university students from Heidelberg University for hundreds of years.

Walking meetings can be a great way to get some fresh air and exercise while still being productive. If you're considering hosting one, Iowa State University has put together an information sheet with tips and advice to make your meeting a success. Take a look at it here and see how you can turn a mundane meeting into an energizing, productive experience.

Try taking your next meeting or brainstorming session outside, and see how it benefits your cognitive performance today. Imagine being able to approach your work with renewed energy and fresh ideas. By taking advantage of the benefits of outdoor walking, you can achieve just that. So, next time you feel stuck or unproductive, lace up your shoes and take a walk - you might be pleased with the inspiration you find.

“The sum of the whole is this: walk and be happy; walk and be healthy. The best way to lengthen out our days is to walk steadily and with a purpose" 

Charles Dickens



Kimura T, Mizumoto T, Torii Y, Ohno M, Higashino T and Yagi Y (2023) Comparison of the effects of indoor and outdoor exercise on creativity: an analysis of EEG alpha power. Front. Psychol. 14:1161533. doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2023.1161533

Oppezzo, M., & Schwartz, D. L. (2014). Give your ideas some legs: The positive effect of walking on creative thinking. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 40(4), 1142–1152. doi.org/10.1037/a0036577

Scott, E. E., Crabtree, K. W., McDonnell, A. S., LoTemplio, S. B., McNay, G. D., & Strayer, D. L. (2023). Measuring affect and complex working memory in natural and urban environments. Frontiers in psychology, 14, 1039334. doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2023.1039334

Vella-Brodrick, D.A., Gilowska, K. Effects of Nature (Greenspace) on Cognitive Functioning in School Children and Adolescents: a Systematic Review. (2022). Educ Psychol Rev 34, 1217–1254. doi.org/10.1007/s10648-022-09658-5