You lace up the running shoes and go out for an early morning jog. Halfway through your workout, the crystal-clear solution to that nagging problem you've been thinking about for weeks pops into your head like a bolt of lightning. You speed up to get home and write down that creative solution before you lose the inspiration. Mere coincidence, or is there really a connection between exercise and creativity?
According to certified fitness trainer and registered dietitian Shari Portnoy, “The more efficiently the brain obtains oxygen, the better it works.” Aerobic exercise such as cycling, running, or walking increase the flow of blood to the brain, and help you to think more clearly, recall information, and learn more efficiently. Cognitive function, including creativity, is enhanced by as little as 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, and the effect can last for up to 2 hours afterward.
Newsweek magazine reported that “Almost every dimension of cognition improves from 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, and creativity is no exception. The type of exercise doesn't matter, and the boost lasts for at least two hours afterward. However, there's a catch: this is the case only for the physically fit. For those who rarely exercise, the fatigue from aerobic activity counteracts the short-term benefits.”
Some tips on boosting your creativity through exercise:
- Find one or more exercises activities that you enjoy, and will stick with. It helps to mix it up- jog one day, take a spin class later in the week, and go hiking on the weekends. Aim for a minimum of 75 to 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per week
- To boost creativity for a specific creative event like writing a paper, exercise 2 hours ahead of time to sharpen your performance, think more clearly, and reduce stress. In a 2005 study of 63 college students published in the Creativity Research Journal, students who did moderate exercise and then immediately took the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking — a widely used test that measures creative abilities scored the highest. A group that did not exercise scored the lowest, and a third group that exercised and then took the test 2 hours later scored slightly lower than the first group.
- Think of exercise as a way to keep both body and mind in shape. It doesn't have to be a dreaded chore if you find something you enjoy and it fits into your lifestyle. Getting outdoors to exercise can refresh and restore the body, mind, and soul.
Logging those exercise minutes is like putting money in the creativity piggy bank. A little bit adds up quickly, and can result in a significant positive impact on mental sharpness and creative function.
Not to just follow my own advice …