Can Exercise Make You More Creative?

Brain Fitness — illustrationIt’s easy to cite the basic benefits of exercise, from increased energy levels to a longer lifespan to preventing disease — and beyond. But does hitting the gym actually deepen your creative potential? Surprisingly, the answer may be yes. There’s an ever-growing body of research showing that aerobic exercise is a key component in helping creative professionals, entrepreneurs, and everyone in between more fully harness the power of their creativity.

A study published in the Creativity Research Journal found that the majority of participants who engaged in thirty minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise (in a variety of forms, including running and biking) and then took Torrence Tests of Creative Thinking saw gains in creative potential. The test measures creative behaviors such as fluency, flexibility, elaboration, and elaboration — put another way, it proves that exercise has a positive impact on every aspect of creative thinking.

Ask a creator or entrepreneur what’s currently holding them back, and chances are, the answer will have something to do with fear. Maybe it’s a fear of financial failure, or of running out of new ideas to pursue, or of not being able to execute a project that measures up to others’ standards. Part of what aerobic exercise does is strengthen the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which helps your brain tamp down feelings of fear and anxiety.

Those with larger, more developed prefrontal cortexes are able to interpret anxiety without allowing it to become paralyzing. The less time your brain has to spend beating back anxiety, the more time it has to create. In addition, taking the time to exercise gives your brain time to wander — so long as you leave your smartphone at home and don’t try to turn a thirty minute workout into an excuse to multi-task.

The best part is that unlike many of the commonly-suggested methods to deepen creative potential — seminars to take, books to read, retreat centers to visit — increasing your aerobic exercise is an immediately implementable way to see real gains in your creativity. Anyone with thirty minutes and a pair of sneakers can do it, and probably should.

Source: Creativity Research Journal

Lauren Hoffman FOLLOW >

Lauren Hoffman lives and writes in Seattle, Washington. By day, she's a freelance writer and editor; by night, she's at work completing a book-length non-fiction project, Up High Down Low.