Does 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.
The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, shows that regular exercisers do better on tests of creativity than their more sedentary peers.
Specifically, researchers noted that regular exercise seems to be associated with improved divergent and convergent thinking, which are considered the two components of creative thinking; the former involves thinking of multiple solutions for one problem, while the latter involves thinking of one solution for a problem.
Testing was on two different groups, athletic participants who exercised four or more times a week and non-athletic types. The first assignment was a so-called alternate uses test, in which the participants had to note down all the possible uses for a pen. This was followed by a remote associates task: the test persons were presented with three non-related words, like 'time', 'hair' and 'stretch', and had to come up with the common link, which in this case was 'long'.
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. Exercising on a regular basis may thus act as a cognitive enhancer promoting creativity in inexpensive and healthy ways.”
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.” Philosopher and author Henry Thoreau claimed that his thoughts began to flow ‘the moment my legs began to move’ and 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. Really many authors and artists have recommended fresh air or a long walk for firing up the neurons, to inspire creativity or getting rid of writer’s block!
Not only exercise can boost creativity but it can also...
... sharpen thinking - Recently, Dartmouth researchers added support to mounting evidence about the way that exercise affects learning and mental acuity: it boosts the production of “brain derived neurotrophic factor" -- or BDNF – a protein that is thought to help with mental acuity, learning and memory.
It helps you learn new tricks - Even one exercise session can help you retain physical skills by enhancing what's commonly known as "muscle memory" or "motor memory," according to new research published in PlosOne. As the New York Times reported, men who were taught to follow a complicated pattern on a computer and subsequently exercised were better able to remember the pattern in subsequent days than the men who didn't exercise after the initial squiggle test.
It supports problem-solving - In one study, mice that exercised by running not only generated new neurons, but those neurons lit up when the mice performed unfamiliar tasks like navigating a new environment.
It helps alleviate symtoms of depression - When you exercise, your pituitary gland releases endorphins to help mitigate the physical stress and pain you are experiencing. But those endorphins may play a more important and longer-lasting role: they could help alleviate symptoms of depression, according to a Mayo Clinic report.
It reduces stress - Although exercising raises our levels of cortisol -- the hormone that causes physical stress and is even associated with long-term memory impairment -- its overall effect is one of a stress reducer. That's because exercise increases the body's threshold for cortisol, making you more inured to stressors.
It helps delay age-associated memory loss - As we get older, an area of the brain called the hippocampus shrinks. That's why age is associated with memory loss across the board. However, profound memory loss -- such as in dementia and Alzheimer's disease patients -- is also contributed to by accelerated hippocampus shrinking. Luckily, the hippocampus is also an area of the brain that generate new neurons throughout a lifespan. And, the research shows, exercise promotes new neural growth in this area.