‘Walking is man’s best medicine’ – Hippocrates
Thomas Jefferson who was a great statesman and the third U.S president once said from his experience; ‘Out of all exercises, walking is the best’. As we all know walking is most suitable for everybody. Children, youth and old can do this exercise without any difficulty. It is generally accepted that walking is very effective for improving your heart health and physical fitness. The latest research findings show that walking is highly effective for nourishing your brain and enhancing your mental capabilities as well. It’s a master key to your clear thinking and creativity.
Many of the world’s highly creative personalities have revealed that their best ideas came when they were on the move. Several scientific studies have proven this idea beyond doubt. California State University psychology professor Robert Thayar and his associates conducted studies on the effect of walking on our brain and mental capabilities. The study was on 37 participants, 12 males and 25 females. The steps walked by each of them from morning to evening were measured by the use of a pedometer. They were given questionnaires with rating scales to find out the level of their mental conditions. Their feelings of happiness, self confidence, enthusiasm, stress, depression, anxiety etc were assessed, evaluated and recorded in relation to the number of steps they walked each day.
The study continued for several years. The researchers found that those who walked more became more happy, confident and enthusiastic. These positive feelings were directly proportional to the number of steps they covered. According to the conclusion of Thayar, those who walked more could eat more food and achieve more mental capabilities and health. In his famous book ‘Calm Energy’, Thayar says that walking is the best antidote to the increasing modern stress, mood swings, anxiety and other mental problems.
A Stanford university study in America has shown that people are much more creative when they are walking around than when they are simply sitting. The researchers Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz studied 176 college students who completed certain creative thinking tasks, either sitting indoors or sitting outdoors or walking on a tread mill indoors or walking outside. They found that when the participants were walking either on tread mill or outdoors they were sixty percent more creative than when sitting. Raymond Inmon’s advice is quiet relevant here; ‘If you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking. Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk’.
Effect of walking on aging
When one ages it is natural to see that the hippocampus which is related to memory and learning shrinks and his memory power goes down. Pittsburg University psychologist Kirk Erickson conducted a study in 120 participants of average age over sixty, who were leading a sedentary life without any physical exercises. The first group walked forty minutes at a stretch for three days a week and the second group engaged in yoga and other simple exercises. After a year, it was found in the MRI scan that hippocampus of the walking group had expanded by about two percent. In others it decreased in size by 1.4%. Such decline is normal in old age. This showed that walking is the best medicine for preventing the old age decline of one’s memory and learning ability.
Fenton, the editor of ‘Walking Magazine’ revealed that the possibility of being affected by old age bone diseases like osteoporosis can be prevented by regular walking. It is found by researchers that the possible decline of mental capabilities in old age can be prevented or delayed by regular exercises like walking. The common old age problems like depression, loneliness and lack of self confidence also can be prevented by regular walking.
One study showed that even a ten minutes walk can immediately boost your brain, and change your brain chemistry, consequently lifting your mood and happiness.
Walking stimulates creativity and mind power
Even from very ancient times the amazing power of walking to stimulate our creativity was well known. Many great thinkers and philosophers were habitual walkers. Socrates and Aristotle were well aware of the hidden powers of walking to stimulate thinking. They found that walking helped a lot in teaching and learning. Aristotle used to deliver his lectures to his students while walking in the grounds of Lyceum with books in his hand.
Great thinkers who used walking for stimulating creativity
The great German philosopher and writer Nietzsche used to say; ‘All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking’. The great ideas for his famous books flowered in his mind during walking, according to his auto biography. Whenever he wanted creative ideas for writing he used to go for a walk with a notepad to scribble down the new ideas springing in his mind. He would walk alone for up to eight hours a day when he was engaged in a major creative work.
The greatest scientist of the century, Albert Einstein was a devoted habitual walker. His love for sleep and walk were famous, both might have tremendously stimulated his creativity. When he was at Princeton University, he used to walk a mile and a half round the trip daily and he refined his theories of quantum mechanics during this walk. ‘Feet are the wheels of creativity’, Einstein used to say.
Henry David Thoreau
The famous American naturalist, poet and philosopher, Thoreau was one of the most famous walkers of all times. He used to say; ‘Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow’. Walking was a creative mental and spiritual ritual for him.
Gandhiji’s favorite exercise was walking and he enjoyed it very much. He was not interested to participate in sports and gymnastics. When he was in London, he regularly walked five miles a day to reach his work place. While he was in South Africa, he made it a habit to walk a lot. When he was practicing as an advocate in Bombay, he used to walk forty five minutes to his office in the morning and forty five minutes back to his residence. Gandhiji once confessed; ‘These walks gave me a hardy constitution’.
Walking in nature was a passion and a form of therapy for Beethoven. Walking helped him to stimulate his musical creativity. He used to go for long walks each afternoon. He always kept a paper and a pen with him during his walks to note down the creative ideas flashing through his mind.
The famous English novelist and social critic, Charles Dickens was a passionate walker. He took long walks when he had to finalize the plot and characters of his new novel. He could create many of his most remarkable and memorable characters during his long walks. He even walked up to thirty miles a day in order to solve his mental puzzles.
Charles Darwin, the English biological scientist who is famous for his theory of evolution, was an avid walker throughout his life. He used to take three, forty five minutes’ walk every day. Walking helped him a lot for stimulating new ideas.
The renowned Danish existentialist philosopher and poet Kierkegaard was a habitual walker and he talked enthusiastically about the benefits of walking; ‘Every day I walk myself into a state of well being and walked away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it’.
Steven Paul Job who was the most creative business magnet, industrial designer and inventor was passionate walker. He was very particular to have ‘walking meetings’ with his business associates at Apple in order to facilitate creative problems solving and decision making.
The world famous American inventor and Engineer Nikola Tesla once revealed that he formed his best ideas in his mind during his daily walk in the city park.
There are many famous writers who were well aware of the amazing creative powers of walking. Great writers like J.K. Rowling, Virginia Wolf, and Ernest Hemingway really believed that walking was the only solution for a ‘writer’s block’. They all believed that their best ideas flowered in their minds when they were on the move.
How to walk?
A daily half an hour brisk walk at least for five days a week is enough for your overall health and well being. If you can walk barefooted in your yard, it is more beneficial for your holistic health since your acupressure points in the feet are activated during walk. If you get some sunshine during your walk, you will be benefitted in a multitude of ways.
As Arianna Huffington, the author of the famous book, Thrive: The third Matric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom and Wonder, pointed out; ‘Walking makes us healthier, it enhances cognitive performance, from creativity to planning and scheduling, and it helps us to reconnect with our environment, ourselves and those around us’. Let us not forget the wise words of Terry Guillemet, the famous anthologist; ‘Walking gets the feet moving, the blood moving, the mind moving and movement is life’.