Exercise Increases Creativity


Exercise

I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, I will share ways to increase your creativity. Today’s post is E is for Exercise Increases Creativity. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Facing Cancer with Grace, where I will share posts that focus on caregiving. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list.

Researchers have found anecdotal evidence that people who exercise on a regular basis do better on creative thinking activities than those who don’t exercises. There are two important things to keep in mind about exercise as a creative stimulant.

Make your exercise aerobic

Aerobic exercise is also known as “cardio”. It’s the exercise that requires more oxygen than usual in order to perform the exercise. Remember those Jane Fonda Workouts from the late 80s? Those were aerobic. So is jogging and swimming. There’s something wonderful about the exchange of fresh air for the mind. If you want to use exercise to boost creativity, do something aerobic such as walking. This brings up the next important point and one that might even be more crucial to understand.

Make your exercise part of your routine

Cognitive psychologist Professor Lorenza Colzato of Leiden University in The Netherlands studied the way creative thinking is affected by physical activity. Her conclusion was that if you don’t exercise on a regular basis, your creativity will actually be hindered. Specifically, she recommends exercising at least four times a week. Sedentary people who don’t exercise on a regular basis and then attempt to do aerobic activity will find the energy they expend will go toward the physical activity rather than to their brain and the creative process they want to complete. Getting in shape will make exercise an effective way to increase your creativity.

If you aren’t currently active

If you haven’t done any exercise in quite some time, you are living a sedentary lifestyle. You have plenty of company. In 2016, only about a third of the total population reported being active to a healthy level, and 27.5% of U.S. residents were inactive1.

Exercise

How do you get active?

It’s important to take things slowly. The risks of going from a sedentary lifestyle to an active one too quickly are very real. The worst case scenario is seriously injuring yourself. More likely, but still a problem is getting really sore muscles and losing the desire to keep going. By starting off slowly, you are more likely to enjoy the experience and stick with it for the long haul.

Put one foot in front of the other

Start by walking. It’s something most people can do and it’s very scalable. You can start by walking around the block once a day for a week. Then, the following week, go a little further—or bump it up to twice a day. You see where I’m going here. Once you feel comfortable you can gradually increase your level of activity. You might add something like a short bike ride to your routine. You can walk alone or with a friend.

Other things that will help

  • Reduce your screen time. TV or computer time is inactive.
  • Take the stairs and park further from the door than usual
  • Find something fun to do that requires you to be more active. Gardening, golfing, walking the dog, and chores, will all get you moving.
  • When you need to meet with someone, make it a walk and talk meeting. People who participate in walking meetings are 5.25% more likely to report being creative at their jobs than those who do not2.
  • Eat more healthy food and less junk. This will give you the energy to sustain your increased exercise. Plus, you’ll feel better overall.
  • Warm up, starting each exercise session slowly. Cool down with some light stretches to prevent injuries and soreness.

If you do get sore

Sore muscles happen and they are only temporary. Think of them as a reminder that you are getting stronger every day. Take a nice soak in the tub and do something active the next day. Gentle movement will ease the pain of sore muscles and keep you on the right track.

While you’re here, sign up for my email list to get a periodic email newsletter to encourage your creativity.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available at Amazon.com.

My Family
The Erickson Family, Photo by Everbranch Photography

Footnotes:

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.

1 2017 Physical Activity Council Report http://www.physicalactivitycouncil.com/pdfs/current.pdf

2 Harvard Business Review, How to Do Walking Meetings Right, Aug. 5, 2015, Russell Clayton, Christopher Thomas, Jack Smothers, https://hbr.org/2015/08/how-to-do-walking-meetings-right

Have any Question or Comment?

8 comments on “Exercise Increases Creativity

I would be considered sedentary but with my RA I knew I must exercise. I’ve started by walking the dog. That pup is so excited every time I do it, how can I not? Thanks for this reminder of why I do this!

I have read lots of posts and magazine articles about exercise and the brain, but yours is the best and clearest I’ve read about why and how exercise affects creativity.
Thanks for this, Heather.

Hi Jacqui. We have a 92-year-old neighbor with a little Yorkie she walks several times a day. She swears that’s why she’s still moving. My kids are allergic, so alas, no dog for me.

Thank you, Karen. I appreciate the compliment. Have a wonderful day!

I’ve read a few “E” for exercise type posts on the AtoZ and they remind me to get up off my bottom instead of hammering away on my keyboard for hours at a time. My biggest motivator has been buying a Fitbit – it challenges me to do way more steps than I used to think was acceptable.

Leanne | http://www.crestingthehill.com.au
F for Family and Friends

Hi Leanne. It really does feel a little counterproductive to leave our keyboards. We have so much to do each day. That’s why I find this one to be interesting. It really does work. 🙂 Have a great day of writing and exercising!

I never really thought about the link between exercise and creativity before, but this is good motivation. I do struggle to do the recommended amount of exercise. I have a desk job and in the evening after looking after my toddler and doing a few chores I don’t feel motivated to get going. Sometimes I go to a clubbercise fitness class but I’m not very good at sticking to it regularly and tend to find excuses not to go! I like your suggestion of starting by walking round the block once a day and think I’ll give that a go.

Hi Tizzy, It’s kind of funny that creativity is a better motivator for me than my health. I guess the things we are most passionate about can prod us on to do the things we really dread doing. Have a great weekend!

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