running outdoors to boost creativity for designers

Can Running Outdoors Boost Creativity?


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Running is often seen as an activity with benefits for physical health. It is an accessible form of exercise which is excellent for weight loss and cardio health. But we must recognise the cognitive benefits, too. We often hear the term “the runners high”, that feeling when your body is pumping blood around carrying oxygen and endorphins to the brain. So, running can make us feel great. But here, we explore how it can help us be more creative at work and in life.

Time away from distractions

Running gives you time away from distractions. Those distractions could be unnecessary notifications, a crying baby, your partner, the TV, the news, or work. Running is a form of meditation. We like to call it moving meditation.
In the digital world we live in, this time is rare. Running is a great excuse to take your time. Yes, you could meditate at home, but you are less likely to stay disciplined and stick to it.

There will always be a chore in plain sight or something to attend to. When you’re out in the open and nature, it’s just you with your thoughts; a great scenario to become familiar with. You can find out who you are and want to be; you can analyse a situation you’ve found yourself in and start to piece thoughts together.

Let’s imagine a problem we’ve found ourselves in in life. We’re trying to find a solution to it. Point A is where we are now, and Point B is the solution we’re looking for.
You start thinking about how you’ve found yourself at Point A in this problem. Then, suddenly, your phone lights up and shows you an unnecessary notification. We attend to it or swipe it up and start those thoughts again, but this time, we subconsciously rush those thoughts because we’re aware that we need to find a solution, but we could be interrupted again.

We start thinking again, but our partner asks whether we’d like a hot drink. This cycle spirals and can increase our stress levels. Point A to point B is fragmented and has peaks and troughs. There is little to interrupt our thoughts when we run in the open. Our brain works on a calmer, more precise, and more relaxed solution. We even have the time to think of two or three solutions to a problem and choose the one we think best fits.

New stimuli can spark creative ideas. It’s common practice for runners to set off and follow the 5km or 10km route they’re familiar with. But, what if we were to set off to try to get lost, or to explore a place we’ve heard people talking about but never actually been to. Why not drive to a spot and start there. Use something like What3words to mark your car’s position and explore. Not only will the new stimuli give us a chance to see new things, but it will also expand our awareness, create new pathways and make us smarter and more street-wise by knowing new locations when we speak to others. 

When are lucky enough to go on a holiday, each new sight and experience catalyses creative thinking. The unfamiliar surroundings and novel experiences we encounter on our travels act like keys unlocking new doors in our minds. This exposure to different cultures, landscapes, and ways of life doesn’t just broaden our horizons – it actively stimulates our brain, igniting a burst of fresh, innovative ideas. Why not do this in our county?

Enhances brain function

Physical activity like running increases blood flow to the brain. Increasing blood flow means more oxygen and nutrients can be carried to the brain, which are vital for optimal brain function. Running also stimulates the production of new brain cells (neurogenesis) especially in the hippocampus, a region crucial for learning and memory.

Studies have shown that regular running can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain. These factors are linked with a variety of neurodegenerative diseases, so reducing them can have protective effects against conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Promotes neuroplasticity

Running outside isn’t just a breath of fresh air for the body; it’s a dynamic stimulant for the brain. Our brains continuously adapt and respond as we navigate through varying terrains and absorb the ever-changing scenery. This dynamic environment challenges our cognitive functions, from spatial navigation to heightened sensory awareness, fostering neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s remarkable ability to reorganise itself by forming new neural connections. Running in diverse outdoor settings encourages this process, as our brains process new stimuli, adapt to different conditions, and solve real-time navigational challenges. These activities not only strengthen existing neural pathways but also create new ones. Additionally, running boosts blood flow, oxygen, and essential nutrients to the brain, further enhancing its plasticity.

The rhythmic, repetitive nature of running and the sensory-rich outdoor environment make it a powerful tool for maintaining a healthy, adaptable, and resilient brain.

Running socially

Running with friends, family, or partners opens a unique creative thought avenue. As our bodies engage in running, our minds enter a state of heightened clarity and openness. Conversations flow more freely in this environment, and ideas seem to spark with greater ease. Sharing thoughts and bouncing ideas off one another while jogging creates a dynamic brainstorming session. This collaborative setting is not just about physical fitness; it’s a fertile ground for creativity.

We’re exposed to different angles and insights as we discuss our thoughts and listen to others’ perspectives. This exchange encourages us to think outside the box and explore new avenues of thought we might not have considered alone. The combined effect of physical activity, which enhances brain function, and social interaction, which broadens our viewpoints, produces a powerful creative catalyst. The endorphins released during the run add to this effect, boosting our mood and further fuelling our creative engines. Together, the physical rhythm of running and the mental stimulation of engaging conversations with companions create a perfect environment for generating innovative and creative ideas.

We hope you’ve learned something

This article was written by Mike McDonnell, Founder and web designer here at Glide Marketing. Mike has just started a new blog where he writes about his love for running and gives an inside view to his business and entrepreneurial lifestyle. Head over to Mike’s Running Blog to learn more.

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