Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Walk, then write

Walking on a Country Road, Valerie Jeanne Frischmann
I  often read through the material I will use to write something for a client and then go for my walk. It's a two-mile trek down a quiet side road, beside which there is a stream for a bit.

The ideas enter the thought scrum in my head and take their lumps. I know my work is better for having walked, although I don't charge for the time. A good bit of the work happens on the road.

Here are some things we know about walking and thinking:
What is it about walking, in particular, that makes it so amenable to thinking and writing? The answer begins with changes to our chemistry. When we go for a walk, the heart pumps faster, circulating more blood and oxygen not just to the muscles but to all the organs—including the brain. Many experiments have shown that after or during exercise, even very mild exertion, people perform better on tests of memory and attention. Walking on a regular basis also promotes new connections between brain cells, staves off the usual withering of brain tissue that comes with age, increases the volume of the hippocampus (a brain region crucial for memory), and elevates levels of molecules that both stimulate the growth of new neurons and transmit messages between them.
Moreover, walking in the country is best.
A small but growing collection of studies suggests that spending time in green spaces—gardens, parks, forests—can rejuvenate the mental resources that man-made environments deplete. Psychologists have learned that attention is a limited resource that continually drains throughout the day. A crowded intersection—rife with pedestrians, cars, and billboards—bats our attention around. In contrast, walking past a pond in a park allows our mind to drift casually from one sensory experience to another, from wrinkling water to rustling reeds.
It's said that William Wordsworth—whose poetry is filled with tramps up mountains, through forests, and along public roads—walked as many as a hundred and eighty thousand miles in his lifetime, which comes to an average of six and a half miles a day starting from age five.

Wonder if he charged.

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