Exercise and Your Brain - The Self-Care Series

February 15, 2022 - Defence Stories

Are you finding it challenging to stay engaged and on top of all your tasks at work or at home? Are you searching for ways to be more engaged in what you do, and how to stay motivated to increase your physical activity level during the winter months? Inspired by the text “On the Link between Great Thinking and Obsessive Walking” by Mike Zonta, read on to learn what three studies said about the self-care benefits of exercise on brain creativity and productivity that will also encourage your ongoing commitment to starting and/or maintaining regular physical activity.

Marylyn Oppezzo is a psychologist who noticed a trend where her creativity and ability to brainstorm ideas increased when she was walking around her university campus. This inspired her to conduct some research on the creative impact of walking. In one study, results showed walking participants generated 50% more ideas compared to participants who just sat. In another study, Oppezzo compared walking indoors to walking outdoors. Based on the areas she measured, the results demonstrated that walking outdoors improved creativity by 60% to 200%! Ready to put the winter jacket and boots on yet? No? Keep reading.

Similarly, another study by Lina Zhu examined the effects of exercise on the brain structure and its performance. She conducted a study where she compared a group of young adults participating in moderate aerobic exercise through sports over a nine week period against a group of individuals who did not engage in fitness activities. The active group scored higher in brain performance and strengthened regions in the brain linked to creativity while those who were inactive had significant reductions in both areas.

When the link between everyday life physical activity and creativity was examined by Christian Rominger, he discovered that moderate exercise (like walking) had the strongest association with increasing creativity. Inactivity once more had a negative impact on creativity. Interestingly, in his research, vigorous activity was associated with feeling energized and enthusiastic but didn’t influence creativity significantly.

If you are struggling with a problem at work or at home and you can’t figure out what to do, try taking a good walk, alone or with a friend. The odds of finding a solution are much higher when you are moving compared to sitting. In addition to improving creativity and brain performance, don’t forget there are many more health benefits from physical activity.

Moving is free and can be done almost anywhere and at any time. When you consider the results from the above research, adding a walk or an outdoor activity to your winter self-care regime is worth putting on the extra winter gear. Dress to the conditions, be active, safe, and let the ideas flow. Exercise is truly an example of self-care.

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Lucie Laferrière, physiotherapist, M.H.A

Lucie Laferrière is the injury prevention specialist at the Directorate Forces Health Protection and she works with scientific evidence to provide advice. As part of the Strengthening the Forces team, she works on injury prevention and promoting active living.

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