"How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live! Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow — as if I had given vent to the stream at the lower end and consequently new fountains flowed into it at the upper." —Henry Thoreau, 1851
Not only does exercise help prevent age-related diseases, it can also improve your thinking too. According to a new study by Leiden University cognitive psychologist Lorenza Colzato, if you regularly exercise, your brain has the ability to think more flexibly than those who don’t.
For the study, two groups — one made up of people who exercise at least four times a week and one made up of people who do not exercise on a regular basis — took an alternate-uses test in which they were asked to note down all the possible uses for a pen.
This was followed by "a remote associates task" where they were presented with three nonrelated words, like "time," "hair" and "stretch," and had to come up with the common link, which in this case was "long." On the remote associates task, the study showed that people from the group of frequent exercisers appeared to outperform those who did not exercise regularly.
“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,” said Colzato in a release.
If you don’t work out a few days per week, you’re going to have to work out more. That’s because people who don’t usually work out have to expend more energy on the physical activity, which takes away energy used for creative thinking.
Ramp up your weekly workouts, and you’ll be in good company: Philosopher Henry Thoreau needed to move his legs to get his creative juices flowing; poet William Wordsworth and countless authors, like Henry James and Thomas Mann, walked before writing. (Vladimir Nabokov wrote standing up.)