Writer's Block? Get Up And Exercise!
December 5, 2013

Crack Open A Can Of Exercise Over That Writer’s Block

[ Watch the Video: Boost Your Creativity By Getting A Workout ]

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Exercise might be the best way to help jump over writer’s block, according to new research out of Leiden University in the Netherlands.

Researchers found that regular exercise could help promote creative thinking. The team wrote in the scientific magazine Frontiers in Human Neuroscience that they gave thinking tasks to two groups of test persons: people who do physical exercise at least four times a week and those who do not exercise on a regular basis.

Authors like Søren Kierkegaard, Henry James and Thomas Mann said they would take a walk before sitting down behind their writing desk, suggesting that this exercise helps to get the creative juices flowing. The scientists decided to investigate how exercise promotes two main ingredients of creativity, including divergent thinking and convergent thinking.

Divergent thinking means to think up as many solutions as possible for a certain problem, while convergent thinking leads to one single correct solution for a given problem.

Researchers asked participants to write down all the possible uses for a pen in a so-called “alternate uses test.” After this, the volunteers performed a “remote associates task,” in which they were presented with three non-related works and had to come up with the common link. The alternate uses test represented divergent thinking while the remote associates task showed an example of convergent thinking.

The scientists found that people from the group of frequent exercisers outperformed those who did not exercise regularly on the remote associates task.

[ Watch the Video: Active Bodies Think More Deeply ]

“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,” Cognitive psychologist Lorenza Colzato told Sarah Knapton of The Telegraph.

The team wrote in the journal that the impact on convergent thinking, the task that presumably required more cognitive control, depended on the training level. They saw that non-athletes performed worse with exercise while athletes showed a benefit that approached significance.

“The findings suggest that acute exercise may affect both, divergent and convergent thinking. In particular, it seems to affect control-hungry tasks through exercise-induced “ego-depletion,” which however is less pronounced in individuals with higher levels of physical fitness, presumably because of the automatization of movement control, fitness-related neuroenergetic benefits, or both,” the team wrote.

Colzato said she believes that the study’s results support the famous classical idea of a sound mind in a healthy body.

“Exercising on a regular basis may thus act as a cognitive enhancer promoting creativity in inexpensive and healthy ways,” the psychologist said.