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A few minutes of basic exercise can unleash creativity and help you focus — and you don’t even have to be into it

move to create
move to create

Mentally blocked? Take a walk, you’ll feel better.

“Even a single, brief bout of aerobic exercise can ignite creative thinking,” Dr. Chong Chen, assistant professor in the department of neuroscience at Japan’s Yamaguchi University told The Guardian. Chen is the author of a new review of the impact of physical activity on the creative process.

You don’t even have to be into it, you don’t have to apply yourself — just move, experts say. Move in order to jumpstart your brain, or simply shake the cobwebs loose.

This concept isn’t new —  Nietzsche once warned: “Do not believe any idea that was not born in the open air and of free movement.”

Now, however, scientists like Chen are looking to go deeper, figuring out why exactly exercise boosts our creativity the way it does — and they’re finding that it’s not at all about fitness, but rather the simple act of movement that’s shaking everything loose.

Multiple studies, according to The Guardian, assessing everything from the impacts of dancing to stair climbing to running have pointed to positive post-exercise result.

Take your act to the next level with minimal physical exertion, experts suggest. aLListar/peopleimages.com – stock.adobe.com
Take your act to the next level with minimal physical exertion, experts suggest. aLListar/peopleimages.com – stock.adobe.com

“When performed regularly, aerobic activity can trigger structural changes, such as increased brain volume, particularly of the hippocampus, which benefit many aspects of cognition, such as working memory, attentional control and information-processing,” says Amir-Homayoun Javadi of the University of Kent. “This gives the brain more potential to be creative.”

“It’s why you sometimes find that you’ve hit on a great idea or solution after a walk or run, even though you weren’t consciously thinking about it,” he explained.

Better still, it is the divergent, “think outside the box” kind of creativity that seems to be most encouraged by activity, research shows.

Experts say there’s lots to be learned still, such as how long can these impacts last, or which exercises are the most effective.

Does the canvas seem dull and gray? Bring things back into focus with a short, aerobic exercise. BillionPhotos.com – stock.adobe.com
Does the canvas seem dull and gray? Bring things back into focus with a short, aerobic exercise. BillionPhotos.com – stock.adobe.com

Javadi, for example, believes that it’s not what activities, but rather what we get out of them.

“Running on a treadmill at the gym, you can go into your own zone and switch off,” he said. “On the streets, you have to engage constantly with your environment — turn left, right, avoid obstacles — which distracts you and interrupts your thoughts. Running in the woods, you have the additional effects of nature on the brain. They are all very different experiences, and they may affect your creativity via different pathways.”

Still, researchers like Chen say we know plenty to get started.

“Short active breaks at schools and in the workplace can rejuvenate people’s creativity and problem-solving,” he said. “And for those who find the concept of achieving ‘fitness’ too challenging, knowing that just a few minutes of walking, or other low-intensity physical activity, can enhance creative thinking should make getting up to move seem more worthwhile.”

And you don’t have to be an artist or a writer or a tech wizard coming up with the next game-changing app to test the concept, either — from balancing your budget to settling family arguments, a bit of creativity always comes in handy.

“We commonly associate creativity with people who ‘make things’ — artists and architects, poets and playwrights,” Dr. Christian Rominger, of the University of Graz told the outlet.

“But all of us have both the potential, and the need, to be creative.”