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One Major Side Effect of Walking Every Day, Says New Study

Want to think better, more clearly, and more creatively? Science says you should move more—starting now.
FACT CHECKED BY Faye Brennan
Walking the dog

It's no secret that many of history's greatest artists created some of their best work with not only their minds but also their feet. The poet Wallace Stevens, for instance, famously commuted by foot nearly five miles every day to his job as an insurance lawyer, usually composing his poems along the way. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Styron swore by his afternoon walk through the woods with his dog. And Apple co-founder Steve Jobs—like many notable creative thinkers before him—used to conduct his meetings while walking.

A new study published in the journal Scientific Reports suggests that if you're looking to boost your own creativity and spur your own imagination, you should take note and walk more—or perform some other sort of moderate exercise on a daily basis. What's more, the more active you are, the more you can expect your creative juices to flow.

To arrive at their findings, researchers at Austria's University of Graz gave fitness and activity trackers to roughly 80 otherwise healthy adults for five days. Once in a laboratory setting, the researchers asked the participants to complete a series of creative tasks, such as drawing and devising new uses for everyday items. The study participants also completed a series of questionnaires. Ultimately, the researchers were able to use data analysis to link their exercise patterns and the participants' creative performance and found that those who exercised more are much better at coming up with better new ideas—and more of them—than those who live a more sedentary life.

"The most active of the volunteers proved to be also the most creative, especially if they often walked or otherwise exercised moderately," writes The New York Times. "Active people also tended to be happy people, although their moods were highest if they engaged in relatively vigorous activities, like jogging or playing sports, rather than moderate ones."

It's the latest study to establish a link between movement and a healthy, fertile brain. One previous study, published by APA PsycNet in 2014, found that exercising more is linked to creating more successful innovations. Another study, published in the journal Science in 2006, found that the mental state you inhabit while doing activities such as walking was linked with creative ideas. "Because we don't have to devote much conscious effort to the act of walking, our attention is free to wander—to overlay the world before us with a parade of images from the mind's theater," The New Yorker once observed. "This is precisely the kind of mental state that studies have linked to innovative ideas and strokes of insight."

The researchers from Graz appear to agree. "To sum up, the present findings are in accordance with the common notion that physical activity has many beneficial effects," they conclude. "Besides the well-known effects on physical health, a greater degree of everyday bodily movement is associated with higher levels of [positivity] (and subjective well-being) and better creative cognition. This study represents a first step to investigate this complex relationship in everyday life."

For more amazing benefits of walking, read on, because we've listed many of them right here. And for more science news you can use to live a healthier life, read up on The Incredible Four-Second Workout That Actually Works, According to Science.

It can help lower blood sugar levels

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Want to stabilize your blood sugar? Take a quick lap around the block after you eat dinner. A study published in the journal Diabetologia in 2016 found that just a 10-minute walk after eating helped people with Type 2 diabetes lower their blood sugar levels.

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You'll be less stressed

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"Having a regular walking schedule can be great for your health, and I am not just talking about physical, but also your mental health," Dr. Amy Lee, Head of Nutrition for Nucific, previously told Eat This, Not That. "[You have a] feeling of accomplishment by burning calories, [you] can lower your daily stress, and you let the body secrete natural endorphins which is the 'feel-good' hormone."

It can lower your risk of chronic disease

woman walking in grass and holding in hand herb wildflowers
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Walking regularly can help you prevent conditions like Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. As if you needed another reason to lace up those sneakers!

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You'll keep your bones strong

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Maintaining bone health is especially important as you get older, and walking regularly will keep your bones and muscles strong.

It could help curb sugar cravings

Senior Couple Walking Along Beach Together
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A 2009 study published in the journal Appetite found that a 15-minute brisk walk helped curb chocolate cravings. That post-dinner walk sounds like an even smarter choice now!

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