|I hope to boast this badge soon!|
I needed a new challenge and I found what I needed in GirlTrek.
GirlTrek is a national nonprofit organization striving to inspire black women and girls to live healthy lives simply by walking. GirlTrek launched three years ago and through social media campaigns has grown to include over 20,000 women who are lacing up and logging their walks online. (Last year I wrote a story for WBHM on the Birmingham chapter of GirlTrek. You can read it here.)
GirlTrek recently challenged participants to walk 100 miles in the month of June. I knew taking on this challenge would keep me motivated for the rest of this month. I've been going for a 3 to 6-mile walk/run most days of the week. And if I do walk/run 100 miles this month I'm going to reward myself with some GirlTrek gear!
I recently learned, however, that this challenge could make me a better writer too.
Earlier this month USA Today reported that a new study from researchers at Stanford University suggests that taking a walk could boost creativity.
"Walking opens up the free flow of ideas, and it is a simple and robust solution to the goal of increasing creativity," write authors Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz in their paper, published in this month's Journal of Experimental Psychology.
To test the influence of walking on creative thinking, Oppezzo and Schwartz divided study participants into four groups: Those who walked then sat; those who sat then walked; those who only sat; and those who walked indoors vs. outdoors. Participants were given two different tests, both widely accepted by the psychological community as valid measures of various aspects of creativity: Guilford's Alternate Uses test, or GAU (people were asked to come up with alternate uses for everyday objects in a short period of time), and the Compound Remote Association test, or CRA (people were given three unrelated words and asked to come up with a fourth word that connects with all of them. For example, upon hearing "cottage, Swiss and cake," a correct response would be "cheese.").
Overall, Oppezzo and Schwartz found, walking enhanced the performance on these creative tests, particularly the GAU: 81% of participants showed an improvement in test scores while taking a walk, regardless of whether they sat before or after. The researchers also noted that the effects of walking lingered: Even after returning to their seats, people who had taken a stroll showed a residual boost in test scores. "When there is a premium on generating new ideas in the workday, it should be beneficial to incorporate walks," they wrote.
I've blogged before about how GirlTrek helped me approach my writing goals in a new way. When I wanted to run my second half-marathon but my body objected to the high impact training I decided I would walk the 13.1 miles instead. This new approach to one of my fitness goals urged me to think outside the box about my creative aspirations as well.
I've also blogged about how completing challenging fitness pursuits can encourage a person in her writing pursuits as well. If you can finish that marathon, you can finish writing that book. If you can stick with that Insanity DVD for 60 days, you can stick with your blog. If you can bench press all that weight, you can press send on that pitch letter to your favorite magazine.
But now this study makes the connection between my writing and my workouts even stronger.
So talk a walk, writers. Of course, you should check with your doctor before starting any exercise program, but even as little as 10 or 15 minutes a day, two or three days a week can be a good start. If you need motivation to get started join a group like GirlTrek.
Now excuse me I need to go walking.