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Is Walking a Wonder Drug?


If a drug, nutritional supplement or exclusive spa treatment on the market could spike your creativity and halve your risk of premature death, would you be interested in trying it? Chances are good that most people would, regardless of its price.

Well, something as simple as walking actually provides these benefits, plus many more — and it costs nothing and is free of side effects.

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Walking Boosts Creativity 60 Percent

Research links walking with improved weight control, heart health and cholesterol levels, as well as enhanced bone density, mood and brain function. However, one of the most intriguing advantages associated with the activity is increased creativity. A 2014 study from Stanford University found walking generates ideas and provides strategies in how to execute them.

The study, which involved 176 adults, showed the magnitude of the benefit was quite substantial. In three experiments that gauged “divergent thinking,” the number of creative responses was approximately 60 percent higher when walking than when sitting. The spike in creativity lingered for a short while when the participants sat down after their walk.

In the study’s fourth experiment, the ability to make complex analogies was assessed. The results revealed 100 percent of the participants who walked outdoors were able to generate a minimum of one high-quality parallel. Only 50 percent of those who sat indoors could do the same.

“Many people anecdotally claim they do their best thinking when walking. We finally may be taking a step, or two, toward discovering why,” wrote coauthors Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz.

The creative advantage wasn’t confined to an outdoor environment, nor was it limited to high-intensity walking — it also included walking on an indoor treadmill and non-aerobic walking. “I thought walking outside would blow everything out of the water, but walking on a treadmill in a small, boring room still had strong results, which surprised me,” said Oppezzo.

No Benefit for “Focused Thinking”

Although walking enhanced creative brainstorming, it didn’t appear to help the type of focused thinking needed for single correct answers. “This isn’t to say that every task at work should be done while simultaneously walking, but those that require a fresh perspective or new ideas would benefit from it,” said Oppezzo.

The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition.

Walking Enlarges Size of Hippocampus

Walking, like other aerobic activities, increases the size of the hippocampus, the region of the brain responsible for learning and verbal memory. Studies show it decreases cognitive decline that accompanies the shrinkage of brain tissue due to aging.

Walking Slashes Risk of Premature Death

Perhaps the best benefit of walking was discovered in a 2015 study. It found that people who increased their steps from 1,000 per day to 10,000 per day, seven days per week, cut their risk of premature death by nearly 50 percent. Does the thought of taking 10,000 steps per day sound too challenging? The study also indicated that increasing steps from 1,000 to 3,000 per day, five days per week, cut the risk of death by 12 percent.

Jogging is beneficial, but at some point, joggers have to stop due to advancing age or the wear and tear on the joints. Conversely, almost anyone can engage in walking for the entirety of his or her life.

We tend to take walking for granted, so it’s good to review what research has found on its benefits. The myriad of wellness effects it produces will never be derived from any conceivable pill, potion or treatment. Walking is a wonder drug extraordinaire.


Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.

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