Science Wednesday: The exercise/creativity continuum.

I’m going to start today’s Science Wednesday post with a big ol’ pat on the back. I just knew that when I did an Internet search for “effect of exercise on entrepreneurs,” I was going to find something juicy and thought-provoking in my search results. I just knew it. This has to be something people think about a lot. And I was not disappointed.

Ideas, creativity, energy! Get 'em all right here...with exercise. (Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at
Ideas, creativity, energy! Get ’em all right here…with exercise. (Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Exercise is very, very positively correlated with the kind of creative, disruptive energy that entrepreneurs have to nurture in order to be able to get things done and face the blank page, or the blank screen, or the blank calendar. We have to have all of the creativity cells coursing around and doing their thing. It’s absolutely essential.

Fast Company published an article in 2012 that lays it all out: the science of how the “creative brain” works and why exercise is so very good for it.

The article’s writer, Jonathan Fields, has also written the book Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance. In the Fast Company article, Field quotes novelist and avid runner Haruki Murakami on his creative process, and his workout schedule:

When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at 4:00 a.m. and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for ten kilometers or swim for fifteen hundred meters (or do both), then I read a bit, and listen to some music. I go to bed at 9:00 p.m. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind. But to hold to such repetition for so long–six months to a year–requires a good amount of mental and physical strength. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.

Fields also features takeaways from key researchers who link regular exercise to all sorts of positive physiological responses:

  • A 2004 study led by Joshua Broman-Fulks of the University of Southern Mississippi that showed students who walked at 50 percent of their maximum heart rates or ran on treadmills at 60 to 90 percent of their maximum heart rates reduced their sensitivity to anxiety, and that though rigorous exercise worked better. “Only the high intensity group felt less afraid of the physical symptoms of anxiety, and the distinction started to show up after just the second exercise session.”

  • A 2006 Dutch study of 19,288 twins and their families that demonstrated that those who exercised were “less anxious, less depressed, less neurotic, and also more socially outgoing.”

  • A 1999 Finnish study of 3,403 people that revealed that those who exercised two to three times a week “experience significantly less depression, anger, stress, and ‘cynical distrust.'”

I could keep on quoting the article, but you’ll get much more out of it by checking out the whole piece yourself. The full article is called “The Creative Brain on Exercise.”

The trailer for Uncertainty is particularly moving, by the way. If you’re looking for a boost today, give this video three minutes of your time. It’s exceptionally well produced.

Now get out there and get your creativity on, through sweat. (Or if you’re me and you’re down with a cold today, through some light gentle stretching and lots of chicken soup and cough syrup.)


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