Attention writers: Sitting too much stifles creativity, harms your cardiovascular health
Hemingway stood while writing. So many others walked to
think through story lines, literally writing in their minds before
heading back to their desks to put it on paper. Now science
reveals that writing while walking is more creative and healthier.
The study, published in today's online edition of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, examined the association between fitness levels, daily exercise, and sedentary behavior, based on data from 2,223 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Sedentary behavior involves low levels of energy expenditure activities such as sitting, driving, watching television, and reading, among others. The findings suggest that sedentary behavior may be an important determinant of cardiorespiratory fitness, independent of exercise.
"Previous studies have reported that sedentary behavior was associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular outcomes; however, the mechanisms through which this occurs are not completely understood," said Dr. Jarett Berry, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and Clinical Science and senior author of the study. "Our data suggest that sedentary behavior may increase risk through an impact on lower fitness levels, and that avoiding sedentary behavior throughout the day may represent an important companion strategy to improve fitness and health, outside of regular exercise activity."
"We also found that when sitting for prolonged periods of time, any movement is good movement, and was also associated with better fitness," said Dr. Jacquelyn Kulinski, a recent graduate from the UT Southwestern Cardiology Fellowship Training Program and first author of the paper. "So if you are stuck at your desk for a while, shift positions frequently, get up and stretch in the middle of a thought, pace while on a phone call, or even fidget."
To stay active and combat sedentary behavior, UT Southwestern preventive cardiologists recommend taking short walks during lunch and throughout the day, using a pedometer to track daily steps, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, hosting walking meetings at work, and replacing a standard desk chair with a fitness ball or even a treadmill desk, if possible.
Taking a walk leads to more creativity than sitting
When the task at hand requires some imagination, taking a walk leads to more creative thinking than sitting, according to research. "Many people anecdotally claim they do their best thinking when walking," said one author. "With this study, we finally may be taking a step or two toward discovering why."
"Many people claim they do their best thinking when walking," said Marily Oppezzo, PhD, of Santa Clara University. "With this study, we finally may be taking a step or two toward discovering why."
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While previous research has shown that regular aerobic exercise may protect cognitive abilities, these researchers examined whether simply walking could temporarily improve some types of thinking, such as free-flowing thought compared to focused concentration. "Asking someone to take a 30-minute run to improve creativity at work would be an unpopular prescription for many people," Schwartz said. "We wanted to see if a simple walk might lead to more free-flowing thoughts and more creativity."
Of the students tested for creativity while walking, 100 percent came up with more creative ideas in one experiment, while 95 percent, 88 percent and 81 percent of the walker groups in the other experiments had more creative responses after walking compared with when they were sitting.
"Incorporating physical activity into our lives is not only beneficial for our hearts but our brains as well. This research suggests an easy and productive way to weave it into certain work activities," Oppezzo said.
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- Material provided by American Psychological Association (APA). Marily Oppezzo, Daniel L. Schwartz. Give your ideas some legs: The positive effect of walking on creative thinking.. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 2014
- Materials provided by UT Southwestern Medical Center. Jacquelyn P. Kulinski, Amit Khera, Colby R. Ayers, Sandeep R. Das, James A. de Lemos, Steven N. Blair, Jarett D. Berry. Association Between Cardiorespiratory Fitness and Accelerometer-Derived Physical Activity and Sedentary Time in the General Population. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 2014