Get In the Zone: How Working Out Leads to Creativity

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I get some of my best ideas when I’m running or swimming. (As well as a bunch of not-so-great ideas, but that’s all part of the creative process, right?) I outlined my novel while I was training for a marathon. I developed my book proposal doing lengths of front crawl in the pool.

I am certainly not unique in this sweat-fueled brain bump. Many studies have shown that exercise boosts creativity. In 2013, cognitive psychologist Professor Lorenza Colzato of Leiden University in The Netherlands found that people who exercised four times a week were able to think more creatively than those with a more sedentary lifestyle. In 2014, Stanford University researchers found that walking significantly improves certain types of cognitive efforts involved in creativity, such as the ability to problem-solve and come up with innovative, open-ended ideas.

The science behind the connection between exercise and creativity isn’t clear, but some scientists believe that exercise-induced brain changes might improve the imagination, possibly by stimulating the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus.

Personally, I think my creative boost that dovetails with exercise happens mostly because I’m not sitting at my computer, or with a pen poised over a notebook. The pressure is off, and the focus on physical activity eases the pressure of writer’s block. The body moves, the words flow...

Here's the thing: most of us have heard about all the physical and mental health benefits of exercise. Stronger bones and muscles, a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers, healthy weight maintenance, stress relief and improved mood. If that doesn't speak to you, but an outpouring of creative juices does, then lace up your sneakers (or pop on that swim cap) and unleash the genius within.

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Get In the Zone: How Working Out Leads to Creativity