The Favorite Exercise of Big-Picture Thinkers

walking is great exercise

I used to be a runner, but this year I took up walking. I walk in the morning with friends. I walk at night with my husband. Walking is a lot less stressful on the body than running. Plus, it has surprising benefit: it helps clear our minds for big-picture thinking.

It turns out many top performers take walks.

According to a new Time article:

Charles Darwin went on two walks daily: one at noon and one at 4 p.m. After a midday meal, Beethoven embarked on a long, vigorous walk,carrying a pencil and sheets of music paper to record chance musical thoughts. Charles Dickens walked a dozen miles a day and found writing so mentally agitating that he once wrote, “If I couldn’t walk fast and far, I should just explode and perish.” Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche concluded, “It is only ideas gained from walking that have any worth.”

Others who made a habit of walking include Gandhi (took a long walk every day), Jack Dorsey (takes a five-mile walk each morning), Steve Jobs (took a long walk when he had a serious talk), Tory Burch (45 minutes a day), Howard Schultz (walks every morning), Aristotle (gave lectures while walking), neurologist and author Oliver Sacks (walked after lunch) and Winston Churchill (walked every morning upon waking).

Time Magazine gives some scientific data to back up that taking a walk refreshes the mind and body, and increases creativity. Apparently, walking regularly can even extend your life. In one 12-year study of adults over 65, walking for 15 minutes a day reduced mortality by 22%.

What I love about walking, either alone or with someone, is that being outside and moving helps me see a situation differently. Sometimes, the answer to a problem seems so clear when I talk about the problem while walking with a friend.

To take up walking and gain the benefit, all you need to do is step outside, move your feet for at least 15 minutes, and reap the  long-term payoff of better health, greater creativity and improved energy. (I recommend leaving your phone behind!)

At the workplace, walking meetings are also becoming popular, particularly with people who sit a lot during the day. The Harvard Business Review found evidence that walking meetings lead to more honest exchanges with employees and are more productive than traditional sit-down meetings.  It also found those who participate in walking meetings are more satisfied at their jobs than their colleagues who don’t.

It looks like there’s a clear case to be made for walking. Even if you don’t make it habit, at least consider a walk for a once-a-week brainstorm session with yourself.

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