The Link Between Exercise and Creativity

(photo: Håkan Dahlström)

Artists and other creative thinkers might become more motivated by staying healthy and ‘getting fit’ after learning of the link between exercise and creativity.

While researching ‘creativity’ I have read that physical exercise in healthy adults may enhance creative thinking. Artists, musicians, and writers have used bodily movement to help overcome mental blocks and to problem solve, including authors like Søren Kierkegaard, Henry James and Thomas Mann.
Famed philosopher Henry David Thoreau was quoted saying, “The moment my legs begin to move my thoughts begin to flow – as if I had given vent to the stream at the lower end and consequently new fountains flowed into it at the upper.”

Frontiers in Human Neuroscience explains, “Those who exercise regularly are better at creative thinking. This result was determined by Leiden cognitive psychologist, Lorenza Colzato. She determined that regular exercisers fared better on creativity tests than did non-exercisers.”

Colzato: “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.”

Two types of thinking were tested, divergent and convergent thinking.
Divergent thinking represents a style of thinking that allows many new ideas being generated, in a context where more than one solution is correct. A brainstorming session is the best example.

Convergent thinking is considered a process of generating one possible solution to a particular problem. It emphasizes speed and relies on high accuracy and logic.
The studies proved that physical exercise provides the opportunity for mind-wandering, and allowing the mind to wander helps facilitate creative thinking and problem solving.

People who exercise four times a week out perform people who do not exercise. Exercise trains your brain to be more flexible in finding creative solutions. Colzato believes that the test results support the famous classical idea of a sound mind in a healthy body. To learn more about the study, watch the video below.


Colzato: “Exercising on a regular basis may thus act as a cognitive enhancer promoting creativity in inexpensive and healthy ways.”

According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention it is easy to meet the guidelines for aerobic activity. So if you are ready to improve your exercise and creativity, basically anything counts. Just be sure it’s done at a moderate or vigorous-intensity for at least 10 minutes at a time.’

At the beginning of each new year, roughly one in three Americans resolve to better themselves, getting fit is at the top of most New Year’s resolutions lists. But, it sometimes becomes difficult for us to keep up the enthusiasm of an exercise regime.

By picking physical activities you enjoy and that match your abilities, it will help ensure that you stick with them. If you’re not sure where to start, here are some examples.
The link between exercise and creativity

(chart by: Center for Disease Control and Prevention)

*Activities that requires moderate effort are safe for most people. However, if you have a chronic health condition such as heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, or other symptoms be sure to talk with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

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