The stereotype of the artist who stays up all night and drinks themselves to an early death has been interrupted in the last few years by a new class of thinkers who take physical health as seriously as they take the health of their creative pursuits. From avid runner and author Haruki Murakami to entrepreneur and fitness advocate Tim Ferriss, the importance of physical health on creativity has gotten a lot more attention of late. And the science backs it up; if you want to be more creative, you might want to invest in being more healthy.
According to the CDC, lack of physical activity can make you a less productive, happy worker. The organization even calls regular physical exercise “one of the most effective disease prevention behaviors.” So, from a very-basic level, you’re more likely to be able to do work and come up with cool ideas when you’re not hacking and sneezing and stuck in bed.
Beyond just basic health, multiple studies have shown that research participants who are physically active demonstrate a higher degree of creative thought following exercise. Exercise not only helps fight fatigue, which can slow your brain’s ability to come up with new ideas, but it also improves your mood, and helps you learn better and retain information for longer.
Finding time to exercise can be difficult, especially if you’re juggling a full-time job and a passion project, but even something as simple as walking to work, or lifting weights for just a short amount of time a few days per week can positively impact your physical health. And with innovations in fitness tracking technology, like the FitBit and Nike+ FuelBand, getting insightful, accurate data about your physical health is easier and more fun than ever.
It’s also important not to ignore other metrics of healthy living, like getting enough sleep and fueling your body with proper nutrition. Your brain is, after all, reliant on the nutrients you eat — not getting enough fats, glucose, and other necessary elements can slow brain function dramatically. Ensuring that your diet is rich in whole foods, like fruits and veggies, isn’t just good advice from your mom — it’s also good advice for your professional life.
In a Medium article explaining the many ways to make exercise, sleep, and healthy food into a busy, creative life, writer Herbert Lui summarized that “physical health and creativity are inherently interlinked. By taking care of your body, you’re not only doing your future self a favor, you’re also increasing the likelihood that you create better art for the world.”