People, Places, and Things

The psychology of design: How to create an environment in which you will thrive

Get a Move On!

Moving around is good for your mental and physical health.

Spring is officially here, and that means it’s getting to be the time of year when you’ll actually want to go for a walk outside again. So go—scientific research has shown that walks are as good for your mind as your body.

Our memories work particularly well when we’re walking at a pace we find comfortable, according to a 2010 study by Schaeffer, Lovden, Wiekhorst, and Lindenberger. The best way to remember why you saved some of the random receipts you’ve found as you get ready to file your taxes may be to lace up your sneakers and head out for a walk.

There are other benefits to walks. Walking around, particularly at work, can increase the odds that you’ll cross paths with colleagues and those encounters may lead to great new ideas. When kids walk to school, they also seem better able to deal with the stresses they encounter during the day.

Whether you take a walk or not, make sure you spend less time sitting. Researchers, including Duncan, Kazi, and Haslam, have found that more sitting time is linked to lower levels of mental well-being. Desks whose work surface can be set at both sitting and standing heights are becoming more available and can help you pack in more standing time. Maybe standing room only isn’t so bad.

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Try to minimize the number of doorways that you walk through as you move along, or take notes as you travel. Research by Radvansky, Krawietz, and Tamplin, published in 2011, linked walking through doorways and forgetting thoughts.

Walking is likely to get endorphins moving through your bloodstream and those handy chemicals make us feel better about our lives, even before the pounds we’ve packed on during the winter start to disappear. Spring walks will help you put the winter blahs behind you and perk up for the summer fun ahead.

Sally Augustin, Ph.D., is a practicing environmental psychologist who studies person-centered design and sensory science.


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