5 minutes: you’ll boost creativity
Thwarted by writer’s block? Can’t quite finish that painting? Or perhaps you’re stumped on a particularly curly problem at work. The solution could be as simple as taking a short walk, which boosts creative thinking better than sitting.
That’s according to a new US study that’s sure to be welcome news for time-poor women everywhere. While prior research shows a link between regular aerobic exercise and cognitive abilities, chances are you don’t exactly have time to squeeze in a sweat session when there are pressing problems to solve.
However, the study, by researchers at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education, found that a stroll of only five to 16 minutes was enough to deliver improved focus.
“The creativity boost showed up even on a treadmill in a small bare room, and it remained when participants were seated after their walk was over,” explains lead researcher Marily Oppezzo.
“For problems that require generation of new ideas, a different perspective, or analogical thinking, walking while brainstorming is a great prescription,” says Oppezzo.
Time to take that meeting outside?
10 minutes: you’ll improve your sleep
There’s nothing as good for mental refreshment as a solid night’s sleep. And if you live a lifestyle that’s a little more sedentary than you’d like, introducing a vigorous 10-minute walk into your day – and slowly increasing the time and intensity – may be enough to help you drift off to the land of nod, minus the sleeping pills or mugs of warm milk.
The reason? According to a US sleep study, more than three quarters of exercisers surveyed agreed the quality of their sleep was very good, compared to about half of the non-exercisers.
Another study published in the journal Sleep, found that a moderate intensity 30-minute walk in the morning, seven days a week was key to improving sleep quality in postmenopausal women. A great reason for raising your heartbeat, if ever we heard one.
15 minutes: you’ll curb cravings
If you’re finding it hard to resist the lure of those Byron Bay triple choc fudge cookies, the best remedy for avoiding an unplanned junk food session is this: lace up your sneakers and pound the pavement.
A study in the journal Appetite found that a brisk 15-minute walk was enough to take your mind off the sweet stuff and curb cravings fast. If that’s not testament to walking’s wonderful effect on willpower, we don’t know what is.
25 minutes: you’ll feel more zen
Fancy a bit of moving meditation? Provided you’re in a green space, a sense of calm is yours for the asking, according to a study from Heriot-Watt University in the UK.
A team of keen guinea pigs took a stroll through a city shopping street, a busy business district and an open green space while their emotions and engagement were tracked. Researchers found the brain enters a meditative state when traveling through green spaces, dialing down frustration and upping focus.
Even better? Another study by the University of Washington found that surrounding yourself with nature helps beat mental fatigue and boost cognitive function. Is there anything walking can’t do?
35 minutes: you’ll improve your mood
Fact: one in seven Australians will experience depression in their lifetime. And besides medical intervention, exercise is one of the best ways to help manage symptoms.
So exactly how effective is it? One study found that 35 minutes of fast walking, five times a week, had a significantly positive impact on mild to moderate depression. It’s all thanks to endorphins-feel-good chemicals that improve immunity, reduce pain perception and boost mood.
Want to upgrade your walk? Grab a friend and make an outing of it. The combined effect of a good chat and an endorphin rush will help chase those blues away.
By: Cecily-Anna Bennett