This article is part of the Research Topic The cognitive, emotional and neural correlates of creativity

Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Hum. Neurosci., 02 December 2013 | doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00824

The impact of physical exercise on convergent and divergent thinking

  • 1Cognitive Psychology Unit, Institute for Psychological Research and Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition, Leiden University, Leiden, Netherlands
  • 2Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
  • 3Leiden University Medical Centre and Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition, Leiden University, Leiden, Netherlands

Anecdotal literature suggests that creative people sometimes use bodily movement to help overcome mental blocks and lack of inspiration. Several studies have shown that physical exercise may sometimes enhance creative thinking, but the evidence is still inconclusive. In this study we investigated whether creativity in convergent- and divergent-thinking tasks is affected by acute moderate and intense physical exercise in athletes (n = 48) and non-athletes (n = 48). Exercise interfered with divergent thinking in both groups. The impact on convergent thinking, the task that presumably required more cognitive control, depended on the training level: while in non-athletes performance was significantly impaired by exercise, athletes showed a benefit that approached significance. The findings suggest that acute exercise may affect both, divergent and convergent thinking. In particular, it seems to affect control-hungry tasks through exercise-induced “ego-depletion,” which however is less pronounced in individuals with higher levels of physical fitness, presumably because of the automatization of movement control, fitness-related neuroenergetic benefits, or both.

Keywords: physical exercise, creativity, convergent thinking, divergent thinking, fitness

Citation: Colzato LS, Szapora A, Pannekoek JN and Hommel B (2013) The impact of physical exercise on convergent and divergent thinking. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:824. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00824

Received: 01 August 2013; Accepted: 14 November 2013;
Published online: 02 December 2013.

Edited by:

Carsten De Dreu, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands

Reviewed by:

Marieke Roskes, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel
Simone Ritter, Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands

Copyright © 2013 Colzato, Szapora, Pannekoek and Hommel. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Lorenza S. Colzato, Cognitive Psychology Unit, Institute for Psychological Research and Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition, Leiden University, Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333 AK, Leiden, Netherlands e-mail: colzato@fsw.leidenuniv.nl

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