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Dec 05, 2013 07:01 AM EST

Exercise Improves Creative Thought Process, Study


A new Leiden University study claims that regular physical activity not only makes the body fit and healthy, but also helps boost creative thinking.

Cognitive psychologist Professor Dr. Lorenza Colzato from the Netherlands University found that people who exercised four times a week (going for a walk or riding a bike) were able to think more creatively than people who led a sedentary life.

"Anecdotal literature suggests that creative people sometimes use bodily movement to help overcome mental blocks and lack of inspiration. Indeed authors such as Henry James and Thomas Mann used to walk before starting to write," Colzato said, according to a Guardian report.

It is a well known fact that authors like Søren Kierkegaard, Henry James en Thomas Mann used to take a stroll before they sat down to write as it helped them get new ideas and insights.

For the study, Colzato looked into the impact of regular exercise on two main parts of creativity - divergent thinking and convergent thinking. While divergent thinking is associated with producing numerous solutions to one problem; convergent thinking involves coming up with one correct solution to a problem.

He asked two groups of participants to undertake two thinking tasks - one group was asked to exercise at least four times a week, while the other group did not exercise at all. In the 'alternative uses test,' the participants were first asked to jot down all of the possible uses for a pen other than for writing. Then they were asked to find a common link between three unrelated words like 'time', 'hair' and 'stretch,' in the 'remote associates task.'

The experts found that participants who belonged to the first group performed better on the tests than those from the second group.

 "We think that physical movement is good for the ability to think flexibly, but only if the body is used to being active. Otherwise a large part of the energy intended for creative thinking goes to the movement itself," Colzato said in a statement.

"Exercising on a regular basis may thus act as a cognitive enhancer promoting creativity in inexpensive and healthy ways."

The finding has been published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

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