Exercise Might Help You Think Creatively

Struggling on solving a creative problem, like how to get past the underground section of Metro: 2033, or how to convince your girlfriend that building a smokehouse in the backyard can only be a good thing? Well, a quick jog might help—but only if you’re an athlete.

A study published in Frontiers in Human investigated whether intense exercise would help athletes and non-athletes think creatively, and found that exercise can indeed help people who are quite physically fit, but will hinder those of us who don’t get our weekly life-saving exercise. Researchers had two groups of young men, each forty-eight strong, one being composed of athletes, and other of men who exercised less than once a week. Both completed tests for convergent thinking and divergent thinking, Convergent thinking was measured by presenting participants with unrelated words (“time”, “hair”, “stretch”) and asking them to think of a word to relate to all three (“long”). Divergent thinking was measured by giving the participants six household items and having them list as many uses for said items as possible.

After the tests, the participants exercised on a stationary bike. After the exercise, they attempted the creativity tests again, and their scores compared. Only the athlete’s scores improved; the non-athletes, on the other hand, did much worse.

So, do you go for a run on the regular? Then maybe do so if you’re stuck on your Sudoku. Hate exercise with a passion? Then don’t leave the couch; you’ll have to find some other way to break through your mental block.

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