The impact of physical activity

It’s well known that children’s creativity is enhanced by moving. But does the same apply to adults? Does physical activity increase our ability to think laterally and creatively? And if so, how can that benefit our communication?

Physical activity at work can have very positive effects. Incorporating a few basic movements and exercises into our working day can boost our energy, engagement and efficiency. Taking the stairs instead of the lift, holding meetings while walking, and carrying out a few stretches every now and again can make a big difference to how we feel and act.

Physical activity and communication

Being energised and engaged is fundamental for successful communication. So adding movement to our often rather sedentary lives – even just a little – must have significant results on how we are perceived.

But is there a correlation between the amount of movement and our levels of energy, engagement and efficiency?

With more movement will we be more energised, more engaged, more efficient? Can movement make us more creative? Is it likely to give us better ideas? Will it take our business further? Can we use it as a tool for change?

Movement and clarity of thought

I recently joined an experimental session involving coaching and movement, in which a group of open-minded people met in beautiful Richmond Park on a gloriously sunny evening to walk and talk about an issue and solve some unrelated physical challenges (‘movement riddles’).

After our initial walk-and-talk, and once we’d puzzled over how to reposition a long stick without taking our hands off it (more complicated than it sounds!) we walked once more.

Surrounded by wild deer and swishing our way through the long grass, we talked again to see to what extent 45 minutes of riddle-related movement had stimulated our minds and enhanced our insight, creativity or clarity about the original issue.

My young partner in this experiment, Sophie, detailed the process rather exquisitely in her blog.

But did it work? Well the stick challenges gave me energy and enthusiasm and my thinking certainly became clearer afterwards. Which made my communication clearer as Sophie and I discussed the issue in question.

But was it the physical movement that did this for me, or would I have been clearer anyway after 45 minutes? I don’t know. However as there are several more of these experimental sessions before the end of the year, each involving a different type of movement (dancing, yoga, martial arts etc) I’m hoping to find out.

Stress and clear thinking

One thing that regular, gentle movement certainly does over a period of time is to reduce stress. Low intensity exercise is known to lower our baseline cortisol levels. And as cortisol is the stress hormone, that’s got to be a good thing.

Nobody is at their best under stress and there’s a known correlation between clarity of thought and stress. Taking this to its logical conclusion, then even adding a little movement to our working day should enable us to think more clearly.

Conversely, exercising too much can make us more stressed. It makes the body feel under threat and at risk, which results in the production of extra cortisol. And that can’t be good for our thought processes.

Movement and successful communication

As the stick-riddle experiment might suggest, I suspect that movement which allows us to think more clearly plays just as great a role in creativity in adults as it does in children. Taking ourselves away from the desk every now and again for some mild exercise is likely to stimulate our creative juices and get us reflecting in a different way.

But what does that do for our communication?

Improving our clarity of thought will enable us to ‘own’ what we say more fully. And that means we’ll be able to communicate our ideas and suggestions more effectively.

Added to this, our physical movement will increase the levels of endorphin flowing through our body. As endorphin is the ‘happy hormone’, we’ll feel physically perkier. Those around us will pick up on our energised mood and will perceive us more positively. And this will have knock-on effects for our increasingly successful communication.

The conclusion? To misquote a famous TV dance show, “Keep moving!”