A new study finds that a single bout of exercise, for fit people anyway, boosts creativity and problem-solving skills.
New research published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found that regular exercisers performed better on a problem-solving task after a short workout. Researchers from the University of Leiden in the Netherlands recruited 96 adults, half of whom were sedentary types and the other half of whom had worked out at least three times a week over the past two years.
Half of each group performed two types of mental tasks while sitting, while the other half of each group performed the tasks while riding a stationary bike. The researchers explained that the tasks measured two components of creativity: the ability to generate new ideas (divergent thinking) and the ability to brainstorm one good solution to a problem (convergent thinking).
The regular exercisers performed better overall than the sedentary people, with exercisers doing particularly well at convergent thinking tasks while cycling. Sedentary subjects performed worse when cycling than when at rest, likely due to the fact that the exercise taxed their brains enough to impair concentration, researchers said.
A separate study from last year finds that if your creativity is in a slump, turn off your phone, strap on a backpack and hike a wilderness trail -- for four days. Backpackers scored 50 percent better on a creativity test after spending four days in nature unplugged from electronic devices, report psychologists from the University of Utah and University of Kansas.