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The Creative Power of Walking

Updated: Feb 27, 2020

Get out and Walk to figure Anything out! Sharing an Inspiring Article.

Oct 8, '19 8:00 AM EST

Sitting there, program in hand, concept underway, and with constraints to abide by, we consider the possibilities. The design process isn't a scientific thing, there's an artistic aspect to it, one that sometimes leaves us searching for the perfect solution. We arrive at something, but know when it isn't right, it could be better, we think. But, how do we get there? We sketch, we model, we converse, we charrette, and yet sometimes there are still those moments of creative contemplation where we can't put our finger on that thing that we know lies in the back of our minds. Historically, walking has been one way to bring that thing to the forefront of our creative pursuit.

Mobile pondering

In 335 BCE, after his pupil, Alexander the Great, rose to power and conquered Athens, Aristotle began teaching at the Lyceum, a school of philosophy whose followers would later become known as the Peripatetics. In the famous fresco The School of Athens, Italian Renaissance painter Raphael depicts a young Aristotle walking alongside the older Plato, the two are in deep discussion. Surrounding them are what is believed to be many other famous thinkers and philosophers of Greece (the identities of those depicted apart from Aristotle, Plato, and few others are debated). 

The representation of the two thought leaders communicates the subsequent name of the school of Aristotelian followers; they are mobile in their pondering. Peripatetic comes from the Greek peripatētikós which means "given to walking about, esp. while teaching or disputing," as Aristotle and his disciples were known to walk about during their discussions and deliberations. 

Walking was central to Aristotle's intellectual activity, which spanned an astronomical array of subjects, everywhere from physics, metaphysics, psychology, linguistics, ethics, economics, biology, and many others. It is a practice that did not only end with the Father of Western Philosophy, but one that has traveled into our modern time.

To walk or to sit?

In a Stanford study led by behavioral and learning scientist Marily Oppezzo, Ph.D. the intuitive notion that walking boosts creativity was solidified through four experiments/studies. "We’re not saying walking can turn you into Michelangelo, but it could help you at the beginning stages of creativity," says Oppezzo. Her experiments concluded that an "overwhelming majority of the participants...were more creative while walking than sitting."

When we tackle a design problem our confinement to a desk can sometimes be limiting. As we try to produce an initial concept or idea, science (and history) show that walking holds merit. There is a reason that Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerburg, and even Obama enjoy walking meetings. Walking gets us movings, and while science still has much to discover with this phenomenon, it is sure to, at the very least, interrupt the monotony of sitting in front of a screen at our desk. Do you go on walks during your work day?

Oct 8, '19 8:00 AM EST

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