Monday, February 15, 2010

The power of exercise

Creativity is not typically associated with physical exercise, but perhaps it should be. My last post got me thinking about the importance of exercise in stimulating the creative juices.

In the midst of a long, cold, snowy winter, with limited opportunity for physical exercise, I found it difficult to get to those days of punctuated writing. I was getting frustrated. During a talk with my husband (in which I vented my frustration), we began to see that the act of being active was the key to my punctuated break-throughs. It became clear that exercise, even just walking, seemed to be a trigger for me. I started walking home after dropping the children off in the mornings, and, sure enough, the creative spark returned.

Curious about the potential effects of exercise on creativity, I did a little research and came across an article on the Effects of Exercise on Cognitive Creativity. Here are the rather amazing results (from the abstract):
The potential effects of aerobic exercise on creative potential were explored both immediately following moderate aerobic exercise and after a two hour lag.... The results supported the hypotheses that creative potential will be greater upon completion of moderate aerobic exercise than when not preceded by exercise (immediate effects), that creative potential will be greater following a two hour lag time following exercise than when not preceded by exercise (residual effects), and that creative potential will not be significantly different immediately following exercise than after a two hour lag time following exercise (enduring residual effects).
There we have it. It's not just me... physical activity boosts creativity in others, as well.

Physical exercise has been shown to be beneficial for a wide variety of reasons: improved brain function (including the ability to plan, organize, and multitask) and improved mood, not to mention the oft-cited reasons of weight control. Now we have evidence that it also boosts creativity and problem-solving abilities, and not just over the short-term. Perhaps more writers and artists need to focus on doing their physical exercises in addition to their creative ones.

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