Creativity & Exercise
It is the start of another year and so there are multiple New Years resolutions flying around and if you aren’t careful, you are probably going to catch one. Mine is to write more blog posts, and so here we find ourselves.
One of the other obvious go-to resolutions is, you guessed it, the annual statement of, “I am going to exercise more this year.”. First off, if that is what you are telling yourself I can guarantee you that your resolution won’t make it past Valentine’s Day. As anyone who has failed at New Year’s resolutions knows (and I like to think of myself as quite the expert in this department) flagrant statements without definable parameters are basically dreams (or nightmares). So you should really start small and work your way up, so depending on your current fitness state, if you have basically become one with your couch you start with the statement, “I am going to get up off the couch and walk to the nearest lamp post 3 times a week before I eat dinner.” For those of you that are less couch and more human, you can adjust the above statement accordingly. This is just a taster of what some people in the know call S.M.A.R.T goals. Do some googling, because that actually isn’t what this blog post is about.
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It is about exercise, and whether it can aid in generating creativity. Read the other blog post here, which is basically a beginners guide to how creativity works and some unconventional ways you could generate it. As far as I know though, exercise has never been recommended to someone who has creative block and I’m beginning to wonder why based on the research I have done and the experiences I have had.
At the moment, the research is a little thin but it is being pioneered by Wendy Suzuki who has a great TED talk on exercise above. She has been studying the effects of exercise on the brain and body a bit more in-depth than your average Instagram fitness coach. The big thing about exercise is that it generates new brain cells specifically in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that is responsible for improving memory as well as, ”...the ability to imagine the future and to think creatively”.
As the business insider article continues to document:
“There's not a ton of data to prove this hypothesis yet, but the studies that do exist are intriguing. There are several studies that show that going for a walk helps people come up with new ideas, and these benefits persist even after a person stops moving. There's also some data that shows that exercise may help with a sort of creative problem solving, though these benefits may only apply to people who already get regular exercise.”
This is all about consistency too though, please don’t think that if you want to be the new starchitect to compete with Bjarke Ingels that a 5km stroll once a month is going to get you there, as the Huffington Post documents,
“...regular exercise seems to be associated with improved divergent and convergent thinking, which are considered the two components of creative thinking; the former involves thinking of multiple solutions for one problem, while the latter involves thinking of one solution for a problem.”
So that is exercise on a generic level, let me tell you how it has helped me and other people I admire. I CrossFit at CrossFit Shumba, yes I know, you are particularly surprised that that isn’t the title of this post because usually, the first words out of a crossfitters mouth are, “I do Crossfit.” Followed closely by, “sorry I can’t eat as it isn’t time for my macros intake.” Jokes we aren’t all like that. I also surf, play tennis, swim and I used to run, but that has been on the back burner, at various intensities and intervals throughout the year.
Alexander Redl - unsplash
How exercise helps me in my pursuit of creativity is that it actually gives my mind a break from trying to find solutions to problems, because there is only one way to deadlift, bench press, muscle up so best you just listen to the coach and do it right. It is a shift in my mind, almost a reset and that is without all the scientific and health benefits. I get to interact with a spectrum of people of which the majority do not know what colour chartreuse is or what spt stands for in powder coating terms or what the fall of an access ramp needs to be, which is freaking refreshing. I also get to learn about stuff outside of my world, stuff about the body, about strength, about movement which will hopefully make me a better person physically and mentally. I quite enjoy the fact that I don’t have to think about anything else for an hour other than lifting some weights and running some kilometres. There has also been a shift in why I do this, it used to be aesthetic if I’m honest, the 6-pack has always been something that has eluded me and the frustration of never achieving it when that was the goal generally put paid to a sustained exercise regime, but now those goalposts have shifted and the purpose of exercise realise that it is good for my body and my mind on a regular basis, whether I am dak for vac or not.