(The) Power (of) Walking

(Image taken from: http://www.active.com/walking)

Due to a change in personal circumstances, I am not currently working in the academic sphere nor am I able to dedicate much, if any, time to my academic work. This is not to suggest that I’ve given up on academia. Far from it. In the last few months, I have edited and submitted the final version of a journal article following peer review (I wrote about this here), peer-reviewed three articles and I’m at present completing a book review. I have also very recently signed a book contract for my first monograph. With limited protected time for academic work, my usual working processes are no longer an option. Instead I’m having to find new ways and means of carving out valuable thinking and writing time.

One of the main ways I’m doing this is through walking. I’ve always, or at least for as long as I can remember, found walking both therapeutic and productive. I’m clearly not alone in this given the recent attention paid to concepts such as walking desks, walking meetings and the like (you can read about these phenomena here and here). When I was completing my PhD, I went for a walk every day. It was sometimes only a brief 10-minute stroll around the block, sometimes slightly longer. The main purpose of this walk, which I usually took after eating lunch, was to get out in the fresh air. But I also found the act of walking coupled with time spent not consciously thinking about whatever I was working on would often lead to breakthroughs in terms of my thoughts and ideas connected to my research. The act of allowing my mind to wander unanchored in conjunction with the physical exertion demanded by walking facilitate, for me at least, the emergence of new synergies.

To give a concrete example, earlier this year I was working on an article following peer review. The article contains two main strands of argumentation and one of the peer reviewers had commented that I should explicitly connect these two lines of thought and that this would reinforce my argument. Though in agreement, I could not see, in the little time I had to spend working on the edits, how I might do this. I spent a good few hours puzzling over this during some elusive #acwri time. I got nowhere. It was only when I went out for a walk, during the sleepy mid-afternoon period, that things clicked into place.

I am very lucky to live in an area with beautiful walks on my doorstep. I particularly enjoy walking away from roads where possible. I’ve recently devised a route around the village that takes me along a disused railway line which backs onto fields and then into our local country park before heading along a wooded path back home. There is something very relaxing about being surrounded by nature and away from houses, cars, roads, people. My plan is to keep walking in the hope that the thoughts, ideas and inspirations continue to flow in spite of the limited time I have available to act upon them.

What about you? Does walking aid your thinking? Are there any other activities you find similarly productive? I would love to hear others thoughts on this!


6 thoughts on “(The) Power (of) Walking”

  1. Lovely post. My productivity was through the roof when I lived in Lancaster last year and I regularly walked to and from work via cycle paths flanking fields, and could explore the canalways and beauty of Lancashire. The uni even has a woodland walk around the campus perimeter which I enjoyed taking, and often advised struggling students to do the same. Even if you’re not so mobile, getting out and getting perspective from nature does you the power of good, and it’s helping me a lot now as I recover from debilitating mental health issues.

    1. Well said Dr Blair. I wholeheartedly agree. Setting aside the benefits of walking for academic work purposes, getting out in the fresh air is hugely beneficial for well-being generally.

  2. Great Post, I like to walk in the morning or lunch. I find getting some sunshine during these times helps me be more productive and also improves my sleep!

    Thanks for writing!

    1. Thanks for commenting. Sunshine is definitely a bonus! Though where I live that’s by no means guaranteed unfortunately!! Interesting that you like to walk in the morning or at lunchtime. Do you find that sets you up for a more productive afternoon? I’m the opposite. I’d rather work in the morning & walk lunchtime/afternoon as that’s when I’m less productive.

      1. I guess I generally walk around lunch, while trying to get outside to sit or hang out in the sunshine (which is also not guaranteed where I’m at!) at some point during a break in the morning!

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