Walking is the best possible exercise to boost your musical creativity. If you’re a singer, producer, or songwriter you should habituate yourself to walk very far. Researchers have traced numerous connections between walking and generating ideas. A Stanford University study found that participants were 81% more creative when walking as opposed to sitting. According to the study, walking outside versus on a treadmill produces the most novel and highest-quality analogies in participants who walked and then sat down to do creative work.
The movement aspect of walking is obviously key. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “exercise your creativity,” which refers to the brain as a muscle. Our creative mindset is triggered by physical movement, which is exactly why walking with your dog, a friend, or alone feeds creative thinking, especially in the musical field.
But the scenery is almost as important as the sweat. The National Human Activity Pattern survey reveals that Americans spend 87% of their time indoors. Being inside, you’re more prone to stagnation, the antithesis of energy. Without energy, you can’t create new songs or write unique lyrics. Disrupting your routine with a walk can be a catalyst for garnering fresh insights into problems or projects.
Just by going outside, you are stepping out of your habitual surroundings and your comfort zone, which is necessary if you want to open your mind to original ideas for your music projects. You can walk through a tree-filled neighborhood. You can walk through a park and observe people sauntering or birds singing. Even when you walk down a busy street, you can’t help but get distracted by the sweet cinnamon smells wafting from a food cart.
Our brains work harder to process in different environments, so walking outside fosters our ability to glean fresh ideas, to take in new sights, sounds, smells, and flavors. Shinrin-yoku is a common form of relaxation and medicine in Japan. It was developed in 1982, and recent studies demonstrate that being in the forest and walking among the trees lowers your stress levels. The effects are so powerful that shinrin-yoku is now a government-endorsed policy over there. But you don’t have to live near a forest to receive the psychological benefits.
Research has shown that immersion in nature, and the corresponding disconnection from multimedia and technology, increased performance on a creative problem-solving task by a full 50% in a group of hikers.
So instead of setting a fitness goal, why not set a creativity goal that starts with walking? Engage more closely with your surroundings for the next four weeks. Turn off your phone and give yourself the chance to be present in the world, to hear conversations and natural sounds, to notice the way people move, the way the sun reflects in a puddle. Walk not just for exercise.
Are you still sitting there reading this? Get walking now!