Creativity-boosting fitness!

2013December13_ExerciseGeneral_ADoes a sound mind really relate to you having a sound body? Does a flexible body equal a flexible mind? According to a recent study there may be some real truth in this, with findings suggesting that exercise may enhance your creative thought processes. Is it time you were more active, not just for the way you look and feel but possibly the way you think? Do you need some creativity-boosting fitness training for 2014?

While there is much anecdotal evidence linking creativity to less salubrious habits than fitness, there are equally many creative thinkers from authors to artists who believe in keeping in good physical condition too. But is there a link between fitness and the way you think, or more specifically how creative your thinking is?

Famous, creative, and fit!

Leonardo da Vinci may have been spurred on in his artistic endeavors to paint the Mona Lisa, as well as coming up with imaginative plans for flying machines, by the fact that he was an athletic man who kept himself in good shape. Even a good couple of thousand years ago Greek philosopher Socrates who focused on cultivating the imagination recognized the importance of keeping in shape when he said, “It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.” Celebrated media visionary Walt Disney was known to send his creative teams to find inspiration along the trails of Sedona’s pink mountains in Arizona.

The study

The Cognitive Psychology Unit of the Institute for Psychological Research, along with the Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition at Leiden University in the Netherlands conducted a recent study into the impact of physical exercise on convergent and divergent thinking. To simply explain, convergent thinking is coming up with a single solution to a problem, or one response. On the other hand, divergent thinking is the idea of coming up with many creative ideas, such as is the case in brainstorming sessions.

The test

Testing was on two different groups, athletic participants who exercised four or more times a week and non-athletic types. Both groups were asked to write down all the alternate uses for a pen. The next test was finding a common link between three non-related words. In this way, both convergent and divergent thinking, which make up creative thought, could be tested.

The findings

The athletic group performed better than those who did not exercise as regularly when it came to both tests. Lead author, and cognitive psychologist, Lorenza S. Colzato states, “We think that physical movement is good for the ability to think flexibly, but only if the body is used to being active. Otherwise, a large part of the energy intended for creative thinking goes to the movement itself.” Thus, there are creative benefits in maintaining an athletic lifestyle.

Getting in shape is a great way to de-stress and give your mind some head space to think clearly too. Not only does being fit and healthy mean you might have less days off work through ill-health but there are also studies to show increased productivity too. Add to this a creativity boost and there will be no stopping you!

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