Walking is good for more than our waistlines—and in many parts of the world, the weather now is pleasant enough for us to get out into the open air and move.
Walking, inside and outside, has been tied to thinking more creatively. All of the novelists and poets and others who’ve claimed over the years that they take walks to develop new ideas were definitely “on track.” Cognitive science research has now found that walking promotes creativity.
Another benefit of walking: In a 2017 article in American Psychologist, Webb, Rossignac-Milon, and Higgins link walking together to more positive ties between the individuals strolling along.
When we’re walking, our memories also function more effectively. Our working memories perform particularly well when we’re walking, and working memory is vital for reasoning and learning. So, at least in the United States, it’s great that the temperature outside often makes it possible to take walks around tax time, April 15. Walks can help Americans to remember why they saved some of those random receipts with cryptic notes on them, and also to learn to keep more receipts next year.
Walking in natural light helps keep our circadian rhythms in sync with wherever we are on the planet. When they’re not aligned with our location, we feel stressed, and that keeps our bodies and our brains from performing at their best. Being in daylight also directly boosts our mood. Being in a good mood has been linked to enhanced problem solving, creative thinking, ability to get along with others, and physical health, for starters.
Walking in nature or where we can see it has the added benefit of restoring our mental energy. Our cognitive energy banks are depleted when we spend time concentrating—on our work or on learning something new, for example. Seeing nature helps us get back to tip top intellectual performance. Research has also shown that spending as few as five minutes walking in nature results in large improvements in self-esteem and mood. Longer periods in nature generate additional benefits, although the per-minute return decreases after the high values of those initial five minutes.
And being more fit—a benefit of walking mentioned above—is good for more than our physical wellbeing. Being a weight we find appropriate boosts our self-esteem. Walking outside also helps us stock up on Vitamin D.
Go find your sneakers and lace them up. Going for a walk is good for your mind and your body!