Physical Activity, Cognitive Performance and The Outside
You are probably fully aware of this, but, physical activity doesn’t always have to be completed inside and at the gym. What you may not be aware of is how performing your physical activity outside is not only fantastic physically but also cognitively! Let me explain…
As I am sure you know physical activity doesn’t just have to take place in the gym for an hour a day. “We should look at physical activity as part of a productive and healthy day – not for having one” (Eldridge, L., 2018). Physical activity outside can take shape in many forms from going for a run in your lunch break to having a walking meeting instead of sat around a desk.
Obviously there are the physical benefits to these sort of activities: cardiovascular health, postural health and musculoskeletal health and the like however there are fantastic cognitive benefits to getting outside for your physical activity too that can improve your cognitive performance each day.
1. Being outside in nature can help increase your inspiration.
Stanford University conducted a study that tested this and they found that when people spend time in a natural environment, they experience a natural shift in how they view time. In short, when you spend time in nature, you tend to feel a sense of “awe” and as though time is expanding.
2. Nature can improve your creativity.
For many cognitive athletes, creativity is an essential Key Performance Indicator in their profession. Finding any way to improve this is an essential tool. Being outside is one method.
A study done by psychologists at the University of Utah and the University of Kansas, that looked at the impact of nature on creativity found that spending some quality time outside improved people’s Remote Associates Test results.
This test, also known as RAT measures creative potential using word associations. The test was given to 56 participants going on a four-day hiking expedition. Twenty-four of these participants took the test before they began their hiking trip. The 32 other participants took it on the fourth day of their hiking test. Researchers ultimately found that four days in nature helped participants improve their test scores by 50 percent.
3. Nature improves overall cognitive performance.
As cognitive athletes, your brain is your most important asset. It is the tennis racket of your profession – without it you would be useless, with a bad one it affects your performance, use it incorrectly and your performance is also negatively affected. Getting outside during the work day can improve your brain function. In order for the brain to work at its highest possible level, you need to be able to reduce fatigue and boost your energy levels. This allows your brain to restore itself so you can start thinking of new ideas and harnessing your highest cognitive abilities. According to the Journal of Environmental Psychology, getting outside is a fantastic method to allow your brain to refresh, restore and start functioning again.
In conclusion, if you are having periods of the work day where you feel your brain is fried, lacking inspiration and creativity, then getting outside during the day may be the best solution for you!