Over the last six and a half years, I’ve published something like 700 YouTube videos on three different channels. People often ask how I continue to come up with so many ideas, but – in a world as interesting as ours – I feel like I’m just scratching the surface.
Nonetheless, generating so much content does take some creativity, and I’ve always wondered if physical activity (i.e., exercise) helps boost that creativity. After all, we know that authors like Søren Kierkegaard, Henry James and Thomas Mann all took walks before writing… so is there really something to it?
To get some answers, a cognitive psychologist named Lorenza Colta studied the impact of physical activity on divergent thinking and convergent thinking, two ingredients of creativity. While divergent thinking means coming up with as many solutions for a given problem (in this case, list all possible uses for a pen), convergent thinking involves one correct solution for a given problem (in this case, finding the common link between three dissimilar words).
According to the data, frequent exercisers outperformed individuals who didn’t exercise regularly. In other words, physical activity may help the mind think creatively.
In my own personal experience, I’ve found that exercise also quiets my mind. Whether it’s running on a treadmill or performing repetitions, exercise can be like a waking meditation resulting in mental stillness. When the mind is turbulent, insights are lost in the craziness. It’s like throwing a stone into a raging ocean. But when an insight strikes a quiet mind, it’s like dropping a stone into a still pond.
In new and striking ways, we continue to learn that exercise isn’t just good for the body. It’s good for the mind. And that the connection between our bodies and our minds is far deeper and more complex than many of us imagined.