From Workouts to Creative Spark – Who Knew?


originally posted June 19, 2016

 

I was reading an article on exercise the other day while searching for ideas for this blog post. And it got me thinking about exercise and creativity.

We know a lot of things can affect a person’s brain function and creative output. Things like general health, amount and quality of sleep and proper nutrition. Even our level of self-esteem can affect how creative we get. But what about exercise?

Exercise is good for our bodies, for our overall health. We’ve been hearing that from doctors and the health community for years. And there are a ton of studies that tie into just as many programs that back up that claim. But how does exercise connect to our creative spark?

Physical Benefits

The physical benefits of exercise are well documented. By medical websites, through written resources, seen by the flood of exercise programs and trainers. Even from our own family doctors. All of this serves to emphasize and support the beneficial results of regular exercise. Let’s look at a few. [1]

woman showing weight loss1.  We burn calories and fat, leading to weight loss. Weight loss, in turn, affects all of the body’s systems and functions, resulting in more efficient operation.

After all, the human body runs like a computer and when all the systems are regularly and properly maintained, the machine performs like a well-oiled… well, machine.

photo of heart

 

2.  Regular exercise strengthens and increases the size of the heart, allowing for improved pumping efficiency and lowering the resting heart rate, which reduces pressure on blood vessels.

3.  Elasticity of blood vessels increases, which when coupled with the benefits to the heart lowers blood pressure. Lower blood pressure also reduces stress on liver function.

4.  Brain function improves due to increased oxygen flow.

These are just a few of the many often quoted benefits regular exercise can offer us. But how can these fit in with improved creative ability? And do they?

 

Exercise and Your Brain

 

A 2013 article in The Huffington Post [2] outlines the benefits of exercise. One angle looks at how the brain responds to your workouts.

Neuroscientist Judy Cameron, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry at the University Of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, tells us that when we work out regularly the brain reacts to regular increased blood flow by turning off and on certain genes. This can offer us protection from diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and can ward off age-related dementias.

A 2016 Wikipedia article on neurobiological effects of physical activity [3] lists specific improvements in the brain function after exercise, such as:

graphic of head with brain showing learning

  1.   Increased neuron growth and activity
  2.   Improved stress control
  3.   Improved working memory
  4.   Improvement in pathways associated with cognitive control and memory

Doesn’t it make sense that through all this our creativity would get a boost? If our ability to discover, to build – to create – starts with our minds, logic dictates that what’s good for our brains must feed our creative processes.

Is There Proof?

There hasn’t been a lot of research done on the effects of exercise on creativity. However, Dr. David M. Blanchett, DBA University of Kentucky, BS, BBA University of Massachusetts, released an exploratory study [4] in 2005 looking at this subject. And while he outlined the limitations of the study, his conclusions pointed to potential benefits of regular aerobic workouts in aiding the creative process.

These enhancements are not only valuable to individuals, Blanchett points out, but to the broader scope. When an individual gains from an improvement in their life, they carry that improvement into other areas. To work, in their relationships, touching the world at large.

computer keys showing problem & solution

(photo by Stuart Miles via FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Our world is what it is through our creative processes. Advances in health, in living conditions, in working conditions. New discoveries, improvements in old discoveries, everything we are and can become starts with whatever the human brain can conceive.

Why stop at exercising our muscles? If exercising can allow our brains to open more doors to possibilities, human creativity could be limitless. We owe it to ourselves and to future generations to keep those doors open.

So, go schedule your next workout.

 

Reference links:

  1.  Thorin Klosowski. How Exercise Affects Your Body (and How to Pick the Right Workout). (May 16, 2013) Lifehacker.com
  2.  Sarah Klein. This Is What Happens To Your Body When You Exercise. (Sept. 4, 2013; Updated Oct. 25, 2013) The Huffington Post
  3.  Wikipedia. Neurobiological effects of physical exercise. (May 27, 2016)
  4.  Dr. David M. Blanchett. Aerobic Exercise and Cognitive Creativity: Immediate and Residual Effects. (2005) Rhode Island College.

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