Most writers struggle with their writing sometimes. Whether it be writer’s block, or working out the best angle your article should take, some days this writing business is hard work.
Have you ever noticed though, that once you get away from your desk and go for a walk, or engage in some exercise, the floodgates open, and all of a sudden, you know exactly how to tackle your story?
That’s because regular exercise has proven benefits for brain function.
The reason you often come up with ideas for your story while walking is because walking can boost creativity by up to 60 per cent. [i] If you engage in an aerobic workout, your creativity levels are boosted for up to two hours! [ii]
All exercise benefits your brain
But don’t worry: You don’t have to don the lycra and head out the door to your local aerobics class prior to every writing session. Just incorporating regular exercise into your routine will help those brain cells function better. Numerous studies have proven it.
- regular exercise increases memory and the ability to learn new things [iii] — great if you are tackling new subject matter!
- regular aerobic exercise changes the brain to improve memory and thinking skills [iv] — definitely handy if you have to interview someone and think of really cool questions to ask.
- just 20 minutes of exercise, facilitates information processing and memory functions [v] — even writers can find 20 minutes to spare!
- exercise increases levels of brain-derived proteins (known as BDNF) which are believed to help with decision making, higher thinking and learning [vi] — definitely things that help with writing.
- cardiovascular exercise improves overall brain performance by creating new brain cells [vii] — who doesn’t want new brain cells?
- people who exercise on a regular basis are more productive than those who do not engage in regular activity [viii] — that means less time behind the keyboard, and more time for other fun stuff. Not that writing isn’t fun…
Tips for more exercise….and better writing
Now you know that exercising regularly will help your writing, how do you go about fitting it in? Well, there are many ways to go about it. If you are a freelancer or work from home, you have even more flexibility when it comes to physical activity.
- commit to a regular exercise class at a time of day that suits you
- go for a quick walk when writer’s block sets in (or check out these tips to beat writer’s block)
- take regular breaks from your workstation, even if it is just to use the bathroom or make a coffee
- perform regular stretches
- walk around while you are on the phone
- suggest a ‘walking meeting’ rather than one behind desks
- walk to the café for your morning coffee….and your afternoon one!
- incorporate more movement into your day (e.g. physically get up to talk to a colleague instead of emailing them, or take the stairs instead of the lift)
- cycle on the weekends
- take up a team sport.
If you’re the kind of writer who likes to sit at your computer for hours on end, drinking bottomless cups of coffee, getting into the habit of exercise may be tricky. But the benefits are worth it. You’ll increase your creativity, your productivity and may even improve your career prospects as a writer.
Why wouldn’t you want that?
Until next time.
PS. Here are the references if you’re keen to read further.
[i] Journal of Experimental Psychology: Give your ideas some legs: The positive effect of walking on creative thinking, Oppezzo, Marily, Scwartz, L Daniel, July 2014 Vol 40. No 4, pp1142-52, http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2014-14435-001/
[ii] British Journal of Sports Medicine, Exercise enhances creativity independently of mood, H Steinberg, EA Sykes, T Moss, S Lowery, N LeBoutillier, A Dewey. September 1997, Volume 31 no. 3 pp240-45, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1332529/
[iii] Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Exercise training increases size of hippocampus and improves memory, KI Erickson, MW Voss, RS Prakash, C Basak, A Szabo, L Chaddock, JS Kim, S Heo, H Alves, SM White, TR Wojcicki, E Mailey. VJ Vieira, SA Martin, BD Pence, JA Woods, E McAuley, AF Kramer. 15 February 2011; Vol 108 no. 7; pp-3017-22 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21282661
[iv] British Journal of Sports Medicine, Aerobic exercise increases hippocampal volume in older women with probably mild cognitive impaiarment: a 6-month randomised controlled trial, L F en Brinke, N Bolandzadeh, LS Nagamatsu, CL Hsu, JC Davis, K Miran-Khan, T Liu-Ambrose, 7 April, 2014 (online) http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2014/03/04/bjsports-2013-093184.abstract?sid=ecff0a48-d4fd-4a9d-b34a-156ca915a79e
Brain HQ, Physical Exercise for Brain Health, http://www.brainhq.com/brain-resources/everyday-brain-fitness/physical-exercise
New York Times, Want to be More Creative? Take a Walk.; published 30 April 2014, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/04/30/want-to-be-more-creative-take-a-walk/?_r=0
Harvard Medical School, Regular exercise changes the brain to improve memory, thinking skills; published 9 April, 2014, http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/regular-exercise-changes-brain-improve-memory-thinking-skills-201404097110
[v] Science Direct, Effects of acute bouts of exercise on cognition, Phillip D. Tomoporowski, published 4 December 2002; http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0001691802001348
[vi] Physiology and Behaviour, Aerobic exercise improves hippocampal function and increases BDNF in the serum of young adult males, EW Griffin, S Mullally, C Foley, SA WArmington, SM O’Mara, AM Kelly, 24 October 2011; 104 (5) pp934-41 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0031938411003088
[vii] Neuroscience, Aerobic exercise is the critical variable in an enriched environment that increases hippocampa neurogenesis and water maze learning in male C57BL/6J mice, ML Mustroph, S Chen, SC Desai, EB Cay, EK De Young, JS Rhodes, 6 September, 2012, 219: pp62-71 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22698691
[viii] Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Employee self-rated productivity and objective organizational production levels: effects of worksite health interventions involving reduced work hours and physical exercise, U von Thiele Schwartz, U Hasson, August 1011, Volume 52 no. 8 pp 838-44 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21785369