For years it has been suggested that going for a walk or exercising can help with writers' block and get the creative juices flowing. Now researchers have shown that regular exercise really does improve creativity
The philosopher and author Henry Thoreau claimed that his thoughts began to flow ‘the moment my legs began to move.’
Now scientists have discovered that taking part in regular exercise such as going for a walk or riding a bike really does improve creative thought.
Cognitive psychologist Professor Lorenza Colzato of Leiden University in The Netherlands, found that those who exercised for four times a week were able to think more creatively than those with a more sedentary lifestyle.
When tested the volunteers who exercised regularly performed better on a series of cognitive tests.
Prof Colzato: “Anecdotal literature suggests that creative people sometimes use bodily movement to help overcome mental blocks and lack of inspiration.
“Indeed authors such as Henry James and Thomas Mann used to walk before starting to write.
“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.”
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.
Previously Roddy Doyle, author of the Commitments, has recommended that writers keep their thesaurus at the back of the garden shed or: “somewhere that demands travel or effort,” to help when they are stuck for words.
Hilary Mantel has also advised getting away from the desk and taking part in some kind of activity when ideas are drying up: “Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie draw, listen to music,” she has said.
Volunteers were asked to take part in an ‘Alternative Uses Test’ - where they were invited to come up with ways a pen could be used, other than for writing, and a ‘Remote Associates Test’ where participants were asked to find a common link between three words.
“We compared the results of those who exercise at least four times a week with the results of those who don’t exercise on a regular basis, “ said Prof Colzato.
“We found that people who are doing exercise on a regular basis outperform those who don’t. We think that physical xercise trains your brain to become more flexible in finding creative solutions.”
The effects do not last long however. Researchers found that the performance for those exercising regularly dropped when they were completely at rest.
The research is published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.
Source: The Telegraph
December 3, 2013
By Sarah Knapton