Walking Your Way to Higher Productivity

Spark your creativity, sharpen your mind, and win back free time with a habit anyone can build.


If you had to choose any activity that had the most overarching effect on your productivity, your health, and your creativity, you would undoubtedly want to choose to walk. The benefits seen from moving your legs and getting some fresh air are plentiful– keep reading to see how you can truly walk your way to higher productivity.

Ignite your creativity

It’s no wonder that Steve Jobs was well known for conducting long “walking meetings”– according to a study by Stanford University with 176 students, walking boosts creative ideation both in real time and shortly after. Participants partook in four different experiments that included various walking and sitting exercises and testing for Guilford’s alternate uses (GAU) of creative divergent thinking, and their results were impressive:

  • Walking on a treadmill increased 81% of participants’ creativity on the GAU.
  • Creative output increased by 60% on average when the students were walking.
  • When seated after sitting then walking then sitting then walking, participants continued to exhibit residual creative boosts.
  • After sitting inside, walking on a treadmill inside, walking outside and being rolled outside in a wheelchair, it was determined that walking produced the highest quality of convergent thinking. Interestingly, there was no difference between the results of walking outside versus walking inside– both produced higher creativity.

Personal takeaway: make sure to get up from your desk and take short walks during the day, even if they’re indoors. Some options include climbing the stairs in your office building, walking to lunch instead of driving, using the Pomodoro productivity technique to schedule short walking breaks, getting off the bus one stop earlier and walking to your destination, and holding walking meetings with colleagues just like Steve Jobs (Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey are also fans).

Healthy body, healthy mind

We’ve written previously on our blog about how important good health is for one’s productivity– especially eating the right foods at the optimal times of day (see our Pinterest board for more recommendations!). But as you may imagine, walking also has extremely powerful benefits for your health that cannot be overlooked. According to the American Heart Association, walking can reduce risk of heart disease, improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels, lower obesity rates, enhance your mental wellbeing, reduce the risk of osteoporosis, breast cancer, colon cancer, and type 2 diabetes. The effects on your brain are tenfold:

  • A University of Pittsburgh study on people aged over 60 found that walking three times a week increased the size of brain regions (prefrontal cortex and hippocampus) linked to planning and memory over the course of a year.
  • Children with attention deficits are able to “substantially improve” concentration after walking for just 20 minutes in the park, according to the Journal of Attention Disorders.

Personal takeaway: it’s recommended to walk briskly for a minimum of 30 minutes per day (brisk meaning that you can still hold a conversation, but not sing). The 30 minutes can be divided into shorter bouts as long as the full 30 minutes are achieved. If you’re serious about integrating walking into your daily routine, you can purchase a pedometer to track your steps– the recommended amount being 10,000 per day. RunKeeper is also a great application that lets you track your walks by distance, time and pace.

healthy mind

Walking to increase output and gain more free time

One thing we love about productivity here at Todoist is that when you’re more productive, you have more free time to enjoy life. The more efficient you are with your time and resources, the better your quality of life can be. This is why walking is so important. For example, the University of Minnesota outfitted 40 different offices with treadmills to study the effects of physical activity on people’s productivity. Participants’ work-related performance was logged for one year and results show that the total daily activity expenditure increased by more than 8%. In an average eight-hour work day, that’s more than 38 minutes that can be saved thanks to higher productivity.

Personal takeaway: taking breaks during the day is essential to your mental agility, and walking is one of the best ways to increase your productivity. Don’t forget to take Todoist along for your stroll (we’re on iOS, Android, and Amazon devices)– it’s certain that you’ll generate great ideas and remember important tasks when your mind is clearing as your legs are walking.

Do you walk during the day? What effects has it had on your productivity? Please share your experiences in the comments section!