The Science Of Non-Podcasting: Why It’s Good To Walk In Silence

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Do we recommend podcasting (listening to podcasts) for walking? In fact, nope – just for today. Here’s why.

Since we’re big fans of podcasting (our favourite network being here), and since listening to them is a great, totally free way to keep your mind busy when you’re out exercising, we thought we’d put together a list of our favourites.

And then we thought, hey, what about the argument for not doing that?

We don’t mean laziness.

We mean, what happens if we all just go for a walk or a run without shoving things in our ears?

So here’s the science of why that’s actually a surprisingly good idea.

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1. Because You’ll Listen To Your Body

If you’re listening to music, there’s a temptation to push harder than your body allows, and strain something before you’ve properly warmed up.

(This is why you should never go running while listening to thrash metal or the Nyan Cat song.)

Without a soundtrack, you’re free to listen to your body properly. How is it feeling today? What’s strong enough to push a bit harder – and what’s needing a bit more prep before you can do that? What is your body telling you and how could you use that feedback?

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2. Because You’ll Listen To Everything Else

“Stanford researcher Greg Bratman and his colleagues scanned the brains of 38 volunteers before and after they walked for 90 minutes, either in a large park or on a busy street in downtown Palo Alto. The nature walkers, but not the city walkers, showed decreased activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex—a part of the brain tied to depressive rumination—and from their own reports, the nature walkers beat themselves up less.

Bratman believes that being outside in a pleasant environment (not the kind where you’re getting eaten alive by gnats or pummeled by hail) takes us outside of ourselves in a good way.

Nature, he says, may influence “how you allocate your attention and whether or not you focus on negative emotions.””

– “This Is Your Brain On Nature” – Florence Williams, National Geographic

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3. Because You’ll Get Bored

When you go for a walk, your entire body gets into an elevated state of excitement. Your heart pumps faster, the blood roars around your body, and you get much warmer.

Your brain wants a piece of the action too. Your carotid and vertebral arteries pump more blood into your head, ready for you to out-think any possible threat that comes your way (which is how our body traditionally interprets an elevated state of activity). So – you pop your headphones in, and listen to great music, or thoughtful podcasting, or something else that your mind can happily chew on.

So, what if you don’t do that?

Simple. Your brain gets bored – and turns on itself. With nothing new to play with, it’ll go inwards, plundering your memories and looking for unsolved puzzles in your life, or different perspectives on something that’s been baffling you.

In other words, you will turn into an insight factory.

Haruki Murakami goes running. Steve Jobs used to take enormous walks (and even hold meetings while walking). Kurt Vonnegut kept his creative mind sharp with pushups, situps and swimming.

Again and again, you’ll find the greatest minds in the world having their most insightful brainwaves while doing some form of exercise.

It works for them. It might just work for you too.

So we’ll do that podcast list sometime soon. But for now, why don’t you get out there anyway, no headphones, no music, no anything except what’s actually out there?

You never know. It might be exactly what you need right now.

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