Why walking is good for your health AND great for writing...


We all know that feeling of being stuck inside all day. Tasks become monotonous and nothing seems to be getting done. You do what you can, but at the end of the day you feel unaccomplished, and you worry that tomorrow will be exactly the same. Don’t worry because I have a solution; walking.

Since November 2020 I have tried to walk for at least an hour each day, often much longer on weekends. The results have been brilliant, and I’ll tell you why. When I fully committed to music a few years ago I started to notice a trend; I came up with my best hooks while walking. This would sometimes be a chorus, a whole verse or even just a line, but whatever I came up with I built a song upon. So when the COVID lockdown came around it gave me chance to really indulge in walking and spending that time with my thoughts. It also gave my dog a chance to exercise in her older years. I would block out what I had been working on that day, take in my surroundings and focus on my thoughts. Often a random lyric would pop into my head while thinking about a plot line in a book, or a tune might slide its way in while singing a bad rendition of a pop song. When I got back the only thing I could think about was completing whatever song I had come up with. It blew away any distractions or writer’s block and opened up a door of flowing creativity. Not only that but both myself and my dog noticed improvements in our health. I certainly saw a change in my breathing. I am now able to hold much longer notes and have far more control over my breath. On top of this it also keeps away those pesky calories you build up in excess through the day. 

Now don’t just take my word for it, as there have been plenty of testimonials, from scientific studies to famous writers. Charles Dickens once spoke of how his “last special feat was turning out of bed at two, after a hard day, pedestrian and otherwise, and walking thirty miles into the country to breakfast” explaining how he was an “expert” at walking because he had done so much. Part of the reason he walked so much was because of travelling up and down the country however, while impossible to judge, it isn’t hard to believe he used the time to think about his novels. Another incredible writer Ernest Hemmingway wrote how he would “walk along the quais when *he* had finished work or when *he* was trying to think something out.” It shows a precedent for walking being able to open up your mind. There is even an ancient Latin saying ‘Solvitur Ambalando’ meaning ‘it is solved by walking’ suggesting that in the ancient world philosophical thinkers found solutions to problems while walking. I found these quotes while digging around for an explanation to my revelation in an interesting article by Nicole Bianchi, who quotes many more famous writers. If you’re interested in further reading I have linked the article below. 

So why do we feel better and more cognitive after walking? Well it comes down to basic biology. When we do even the minimalist amount of exercise our hearts begins to pump faster, pushing more oxygen around all the organs (in this case the brain) and reinvigorating any cells that might have been put aside. The hippocampus increases in size which is highly important to creativity as this is the section in the brain that is crucial for memory, meaning you can remember ideas you may have forgotten. What walking has over a more strenuous activities such as running is that, because you set your own pace, the blood isn’t rushing as fast so you can ponder over thoughts rather than have a hundred at once. In 2014 Stanford researches conducted a study on the link between brain function and walking with 176 college students. The 4 experiments required the subjects to either sit or run on a treadmill inside, and walk or sit outside. They were then asked questions based on “divergent thinking”. Once the study concluded they found 100% of those who walked outside could come up with at least 1 high quality analogy, compared to the 50% who sat down inside. If that isn’t proof enough I don’t know what is. I will also link the study below for your further reading. 

It is clear that there is a link between being able access more parts of your brain when walking, than when stuck within a confined room. I personally have experienced it and wholly recommend it. As noted famous writers from the past too have felt the effects. So if you’re feeling stuck and need that boost I suggest go out for a walk. If you don’t have a lot of time only go for twenty minutes, if you do have the time try planning a walk and going for as long as you like, but not enough to make you tired so you won’t want to work when you return. I also suggest if you fully want to shut off and not interact with your thoughts, you should listen to a podcast or some soothing music. This takes away the distractions while still giving you the benefit of fresh air and exercise meaning, when you get back you might find your have brand new ideas waiting for you. Obviously this is all my opinion, but I would love to hear your thoughts on it, so feel free to get in touch or leave a comment.

Nicole Bianchi Article - https://nicolebianchi.medium.com/how-a-daily-walk-can-boost-your-creativity-a29a236582d2

Stanford Study - https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/xlm-a0036577.pdf