Gaining a creative edge is vital to staying on top of an incredibly competitive industry. It can become an unhealthy obsession. Contrarily, one of the best ways to stay in the hunt is in the healthiest of ways: commuting by running or cycling. With a little pre-planning, some sweat and, hopefully, a shower, you can greatly improve your cognitive output with the time you are already losing in your car.
Don’t take our word for it. A study from Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, found that those who exercised four times a week were able to think more creatively than those with more sedentary lifestyles. Researchers noted that regular exercise seems to be associated with improved divergent and convergent thinking, which are considered the two components of creative thinking; the former involves thinking of multiple solutions for one problem while the latter involves thinking of one solution for a problem. That sounds awfully similar to the thinking required to successfully execute on a creative brief.
Here are seven reasons to get you fired up enough to dust off your Huffy or Nikes and get your body and mind moving:
1. Time to think.
You don’t need a scientific study to know there are 24 hours in a day. In a traditional eight-hour workday, a creative director might have half if not all of those hours gobbled up by meetings. Since agency talent might (gasp) sleep and (double gasp) have a life outside the office, commuting is a sneaky time management solution to feel better about your health and ideas. Cycling or running just 30 minutes to and from the office carves out an hour of uninterrupted thought. Add in some proper stretching and you have nearly two hours to inch yourself closer to Cannes.
2. Get unstuck.
In their Ten rules for writing fiction, Margaret Atwood, Roddy Doyle and Helen Dunmore all recommend getting the hell away from your desk to step out of your problem long enough – even if it’s a little painful – to find its solution. According to these tips, it appears one of the best ways to quit spinning your wheels is to actually spin your (bike) wheels. Not only does running and cycling momentarily occupy your mind with a new mental task, it also serves as a deliberate removal from the environment that may be stunting your thoughts.
3. Your work will age better.
One of the greatest fears is getting too old for advertising. Many seasoned creatives have forgotten more than their greener colleagues know. While that can be a benefit initially, it spells trouble over time. The good news is it appears the wear of time can be wiped clean with a little sweat. Researchers at the University of British Columbia found that regular aerobic exercise increased the size of the hippocampus, the brain area responsible for verbal memory and learning. Staying sharp and learning new things is the key to a long career in advertising. So, if you aren’t ready to move on, get moving and stay humble, but keep a big head.
4. Learn something new.
If movement alone isn’t enough to get your mind feeling Gillette-Fusion-sharp, (Five! Five blades!) bring your earbuds along for the ride. Not only is riding and running a great time to think, it’s a brilliant time to listen. Podcasts can teach you anything from copy to code. Knowing that many agencies have the expectation that ongoing professional development is part of being, well, professional, you should have all the motivation you need to switch gears.
5. Dude, relax. It’s just advertising.
Advertising is a little stressful. If not, you’re probably doing it wrong. The pressures of only being as good as your last idea are real, especially if it’s a self-imposed standard. These stresses can lead to some cranky and moody creatives. That’s why the Mayo Clinic recommends getting high – runner’s high. Exercise increases endorphins, your feel-good neurotransmitters. Runner’s high feels almost as good as an ice-cold beer, and, unlike alcohol, aerobics are also proven to help you sleep, further improving your mellow.
6. The cure for the surprisingly common depression.
Reducing tension isn’t just for relaxation. There is a bit of an unspoken dark side to creativity. The idea of the “tortured artist” may not just be a stereotype after all. Keri Szaboles, a psychiatrist studying the genes of creativity at Semmelweis University in Hungary, gave 128 participants a creativity test followed by a blood test. He found that those who demonstrated the greatest creativity carried a gene associated with severe mental disorders. Yikes. But, don’t go jumping on a psychologist’s fainting chair just yet. There is evidence that if you take a few deep breaths (OK, there’s probably more to meditation than that) and keep that crazy blood of yours flowing for over 20 minutes, you can keep your spirits up through any barrage of panic-inducing deadlines or loss of ideas. Besides, how serious can you take life wearing spandex?
7. Spandex over khakis and polos.
As hard as creatives may try to avoid networking, it’s inevitably part of the job. As Adobe has proven, becoming part of a running or cycling community is a viable alternative to the clichéd business meetings at the 19th hole. And the collaboration doesn’t end in the board room. Running or cycling meetings with coworkers can happen in half the time it takes to swing the sticks for just nine holes. And, yeah, you didn’t sign up to work at an agency to wear shirts with buttons – or worse – pants with pleats.