I wonder if exercise increases your creativity. I read all these meme’s about the benefits of just walking twenty minutes a day. Personally I think exercise sucks. I believe I am very lazy. Also, exercise is exceptionally boring. Although all that mind wandering may have a perk. However, unlike normal people I do not have a choice about the matter. I can’t just go ‘this is painful and boring so I am just not going to do it’. ‘More time for reading! Yay!’ No, I have chronic pain and when you have chronic pain you have to do things that make it worse in order to maybe make it feel better. I am not entirely sure how that works. Actually I do understand the theory but I do not have to like it. However, I will say, no matter what kind of chronic pain you have there has been some sort of study on it and exercise insisting that exercise, of some sort, will help with the pain, in some way. And no matter how that study was done, even if it was just ten people and just that one study… it is enough for doctors. In their defense, exercise can’t be bad right? So no harm done. Well, unless you do the wrong sort of exercise too quickly then it is a world of harm. Except they are not the bastards doing it.
So exercise it is. I had been exercising of course. Naturally it was not the first time it was mentioned so, of course, I had been doing it. Being an obedient patient in all things. I was walking for twenty minutes a day and doing 16 minutes of yoga a day. I had worked my way up to that. That is also with a daily pain killer called tramadol in slow release form. I can do half that without. The pain killer by the way is not because I am in pain, it is specifically for the increase in pain that will be caused from the exercise… so I can do more of it. Nice. Sounds like a blast. The pain clinic was determined I do Aerobic exercise. That I sweat. All because the study they read on migraines specifically refereed to that.
And so I got a stationary bike.
Well, I should say my first attempt was roller-blading. It turns out that when you have vertigo you should not attach wheels to your feet. Apparently when you feel that the ground is unstable and falling beneath you having wheels on your feet makes this worse. And I think, generally, once you are over the age of thirty-five maybe it is just not a good idea to give that a go anyway. Or I felt like more of an idiot anyway. It is not like riding a bike. You do not remember how to do it. Or stand on them. I should also point out that these roller-blades were twenty years old. I am not sure I should have even made the attempt, but I am that daring.
My second attempt was riding a bike. No one forgets how to ride a bike. Apparently also a bad idea with vertigo to just Be in Motion. I think it is like riding a bike drunk. A lot of weaving about. A lot of feeling very unsteady. And then when you get off… sort of feeling like that ground has massively betrayed you by moving of its own volition. I have decided this might be dangerous driving and could lead to injury. There is a good chance I would fall and land on my head and I don’t have a helmet yet.
So…yes, stationary bike. Not moving. Just a part of me moving. All ready. I get going and instantly I am tired. It is like instantly my muscles reject this notion. You have to understand with fibromyalgia exercise, pain and fatigue just go together. You also do not feel less pain like a normal person does from exercising so it is always painful. However, I had to combat the fatigue issue first. Because I was going nowhere fast. Actually I was going nowhere slow. I was not able to go very fast at all. And for a very short duration. About ten minutes. I know I was not impressed. Given the pain clinic had a goal of an hour. An Hour. Given what I had achieved that seemed an impossible feat.
Turns out they expect me to attain an hour of exercise slowly. It could take up to six months to get there. Which is a damned good thing because apparently I am going to do this by increasing in minutes. I am currently at 11. I feel like I should be very impressed by this.
So what about the creative perk? I have been writing like a demon lately. Perhaps because my fatigue has been a little lower.
Cognitive psychologist Professor Lorenza Colzato of Leiden University in The Netherlands, found that those who exercised for four times a week were able to think more creatively than those with a more sedentary lifestyle.
When tested the volunteers who exercised regularly performed better on a series of cognitive tests.
Prof Colzato: “Anecdotal literature suggests that creative people sometimes use bodily movement to help overcome mental blocks and lack of inspiration.
“Indeed authors such as Henry James and Thomas Mann used to walk before starting to write.
“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.
“Exercising on a regular basis may thus act as a cognitive enhancer promoting creativity in inexpensive and healthy ways.”
Many authors and artists have recommended fresh air or a long walk for firing up the neurons, to inspire creativity or getting rid of writer’s block.
Previously Roddy Doyle, author of the Commitments, has recommended that writers keep their thesaurus at the back of the garden shed or: “somewhere that demands travel or effort,” to help when they are stuck for words.
Hilary Mantel has also advised getting away from the desk and taking part in some kind of activity when ideas are drying up: “Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie draw, listen to music,” she has said.
Volunteers were asked to take part in an ‘Alternative Uses Test’ – where they were invited to come up with ways a pen could be used, other than for writing, and a ‘Remote Associates Test’ where participants were asked to find a common link between three words.
“We compared the results of those who exercise at least four times a week with the results of those who don’t exercise on a regular basis, “ said Prof Colzato.
“We found that people who are doing exercise on a regular basis outperform those who don’t. We think that physical exercise trains your brain to become more flexible in finding creative solutions.”
The effects do not last long however. Researchers found that the performance for those exercising regularly dropped when they were completely at rest. (The Telegraph)
So maybe all that extra pain is worth a little something.