Does Exercise Boost Creativity?

We know the benefits of exercise are plenty: from improved cardiovascular health to weight loss and brighter mood, even improving recovery from cancer. But what about boosting creativity?

According to Dr. Wendy Suzuki, a neuroscientist and professor at New York University and author of “Healthy Brain, Happy Life,“We know exercise can stimulate the growth of brand-new brain cells in the hippocampus, and because we know that the hippocampus is important for long-term memory and imagination, this suggests that exercise can improve not only memory function but our creativity as well,” she told Fox News.

It may be why taking a walk is often suggested when working on a problem—the movement can set loose some creative ideas, “It helps parts of the brain important for attention, for memory and for mood, and it does this by doing things like changing the anatomical structure of the brain— it actually increases the size of some of these areas, and enhances the physiological responses of these areas,” says Suzuki.

In her research, Suzuki looked at the effects of exercise on young people—students at NYU. Suzuki herself became a certified fitness instructor and began teaching what she calls “intentional exercise” where positive affirmations such as “I am strong!” or “I am powerful!” are shouted by the attendees during class. 

“Each class was one hour of me teaching them aerobic exercise, followed by an hour and a half lecture discussion talking about and telling them about what exercise was doing to their brain,” she said.

Then, she tested their brains with memory-encoding tasks at the beginning and end of the course.

“I tested students on a challenging memory task that required them to differentiate between similar-looking objects in memory. I found that one semester of increased exercise in my class improved their response times for correctly answered questions. In other words, they answered correctly more quickly if they were in my exercise class compared to if they were not in the exercise class,” Suzuki said.

“Improvements in response times have been reported before, but this was unique because it was shown in a group of healthy young university students with just once a week of increased exercise.  This suggests that if significant effects can be seen with this modest amount of exercise, then we might see even more striking effects if we got up to two to four times a week of increased exercise.”  

Suzuki chose the young students because there hasn’t been much research done in this area on young people, but older people can also benefit from the brain boosting effects of exercise, she sys.

“You don’t have to be a triathlete to get the benefits of exercise on your brain. No matter what age you are, no matter what health status you are, you can get these benefits of exercise.”

 Image: Lost Albatross



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