Boozy lunches. Sugary meeting leftovers. Stress, late nights, and working through lunch.
For too long, advertising’s attitude to health has been, well, a little unhealthy. As a time-poor, already-frazzled bunch, we really should be taking better care of ourselves. But with busy lives and tighter and tighter deadlines, our physical and emotional wellbeing can easily find itself shoved to the bottom of our ‘to-do’ lists.
But could we, as an industry, be missing a trick?
In a 2013 study, cognitive psychologist Professor Lorenza Colzato of Leiden University in The Netherlands, found that participants who exercised regularly were able to think more creatively than those with a more sedentary lifestyle.
Using an ‘Alternative Uses Test’ they asked their participants to come up with as many novel uses for a pen as they could think of. And in a second, ‘Remote Associates Test’, the link between three common words. Tests that require both inventiveness and lateral thinking.
When the results were analysed, Colzato’s team found that those who were doing exercise at least four times a week outperformed those who didn’t. Their theory: that exercise trains your brain to become more flexible in finding creative solutions.
“But I don’t want to be a sweaty mess with calloused hands, Claire. It’s just not for me.”
Don’t worry, there’s more…
A 2014 study by scientists at Stanford University showed that walking significantly improved certain types of cognitive efforts involved in creativity – specifically convergent thinking, such as the ability to come up with solutions to a problem, and divergent thinking, which involves conceiving open-ended, original ideas.
“But Claire, that’s almost EXACTLY what we do in advertising!”
YES IT IS! I’m so glad you noticed.
Aside from all this, pretty persuasive, evidence, I can personallyvouch for the many virtues, not just physical, of going to the gym most days. From the top:
1. Stress relief – Tricky brief? Grumpy client? Take it out on a spin bike, boxing bag or squat rack. With ears full of tunes, and eyes full of sweat (and sometimes tears) there’ll be no room for nagging worry or doubt.
2. Mental resilience – Me: “But my legs already KILL from yesterday!!” Also me: “TOUGH, you’re working them again today.” And by some small miracle, you dig deep, and you DO!
3. A true sense of achievement – What do I mean by ‘true’? Try having six rounds of your own ideas knocked back (for arguably pretty subjective reasons) and you’ll understand why going from being able to deadlift 40kg to over your own bodyweight fills you with total, unbridled, 100% objective pride.
And last (but by no means least) 4. Time out – that gloriously sweaty spin class, legs day or dance class gives you 45 whole minutes ALL. TO. YOURSELF. No emails. No phone calls. No ‘could you just’s.
This, seemingly small, physical and emotional move from the office gives your brain chance to step away from the problem, headline, or brief that’s got you flummoxed. Letting you get back to it, refreshed, revitalised and high-as-a-kite on feel-good hormones, later on that afternoon.
So, come on… what’s stopping you? Today could be the day you unfreeze that old gym membership; dig out those dusty trainers, and go for a run – or even just a brisk walk – in your local park.
Worst case, you’ll end today a little fitter. And, if these guys have got their research right, you might be just that little bit closer to a Cannes Lion when you get back!