I'm a poet and a runner, and although these might seem like very different interests, I've grown to love combining them. Whenever I go on a longer run, I find that ideas for poems come to me so much more easily than they do when I'm sitting at my desk at home. Something about the physical act of running seems to give my mind a major boost, and it turns out, I'm not alone in this. Ashley Graham had an "aha" moment while exercising, she revealed in a recent interview with Elle, so it seems like this recipe of fitness and new ideas works for plenty of people — even incredible role models like Graham.
In her interview with Elle, Graham recounted the story of when the combination of listening to an Oprah podcast, and going on a strenuous 12-mile hike, led her to think of herself in a new way. In the past, Graham told the magazine, she'd been compared to other women who were already famous, but during her trek, she realized that she didn't actually want to be compared to anyone but herself. She told Elle,
I was hiking and listening to one of [Oprah's] podcasts. One of her producers was on, talking, and she was like, "If I had a dollar every time someone said, 'I’ve got the next Oprah,' I’d be filthy rich." She was like, "Nobody’s gonna be Oprah, because Oprah cornered a market in her time.... Nobody was talking the way she was talking on TV."
Something about hearing these words shifted Graham's focus. “It was my aha moment," she said. "People have always put me in this box of Oprah, or Ellen, or whatever. I was like, I’m not gonna be Oprah. I’m gonna be Ashley.”
While this might sound like a merely spiritual experience, science actually supports the idea that exercise can boost your creativity and change the way you think, making it a great way to encourage this kind of "aha" moment.
First of all, anything that kicks your heart rate above its resting state pushes more blood to your brain, which in turn can have a major impact on your creativity, says Sylvia Nasser, certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and founder of the #irockthesportsbra body positive movement. "If people exercised more, they’d be more creative, efficient, and productive in their jobs," she tells Elite Daily.
You don't have to push your heart to its absolute limits if you want to kick your creativity into gear, though. Even something as simple as going for a walk can help your ideas come about more freely, according to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. The researchers had participants complete four different exercises during the study, and then tested them on their creative thinking to see how the workout had influenced their minds. They found that walking — particularly walking outdoors, compared to walking inside — had a major effect on the participants' creativity both during the exercise, and shortly after the fact. "Walking opens up the free flow of ideas, and it is a simple and robust solution to the goals of increasing creativity and increasing physical activity," the study's authors concluded.
The key to capitalizing on this major perk is exercising on a regular basis, cognitive psychologist and professor, Lorenza Colzato, of Leiden University in The Netherlands, told The Telegraph back in December 2013. “We think that physical movement is good for the ability to think flexibly, but only if the body is used to being active," she explained. "Otherwise a large part of the energy intended for creative thinking goes to the movement itself. Exercising on a regular basis may thus act as a cognitive enhancer promoting creativity in inexpensive and healthy ways.”