As Spring begins in Central Ohio, it is not uncommon to hear Joseph Group team members suggest “walking meetings.” We have a lot of dedicated walkers on our team, and the beauty of downtown Columbus to walk in. If you look at history, there’s a long list of great thinkers – like James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Charles Darwin – who were obsessive walkers. So, walking and thinking – what’s the connection?
It has been long known that pretty much any form of exercise circulates more blood and oxygen, not just to your muscles, but also to your brain. Getting the heart pumping also kicks off some other positive changes. Research shows that during or after exercise – even very mild exertion – people perform better on tests of memory and attention. Walking on a regular basis promotes new connections between brain cells, staves off the loss of brain tissue that comes with age, and increases the volume of the hippocampus – the brain region crucial for memory.
But walking benefits us in other ways. The rhythm of our steps is like the tempo of music. Just like the tempo of music can impact our mood, tempo of a walk can shape our thoughts. Ferris Jabr of The New Yorker says, “Walking at our own pace creates an unadulterated feedback loop between the rhythm of our bodies and our mental state that we cannot experience as easily when we’re jogging at the gym, steering a car, biking, or during any other kind of locomotion. When we stroll, the pace of our feet naturally vacillates with our moods and the cadence of our inner speech; at the same time, we can actively change the pace of our thoughts by deliberately walking more briskly or by slowing down.”
Perhaps the biggest thing to explain walking and thinking is that walking takes just a little bit of attention to do, leaving a lot of brain power left to wander and observe. Because you don’t have to devote a lot of conscious effort to walking, your brain can achieve the kind of mental state that studies show lead to big ideas and insights.
Where we walk matters, too. A city walk provides immediate stimulation- a greater variety of sights and sounds for your brain to play with, while spending time in green spaces can renew your mental resources. Psychologists say attention is a limited resource that can get drained away throughout the day, and a walk in park can allow your mind to drift casually, rejuvenating your mind.
Such a simple thing to do, good for you physically and a boost for your brain. So as these beautiful Spring days start showing up more often, if you’re able, take a walk! It just might spark an amazing idea, but will definitely improve your brain.
Written by Michelle O’Brien, Manager of Marketing & Communications