‘Maybe if you went for a jog, you’ll be able to focus better.’
Have you noticed that as you’re trying to revise, you go to the toilet more to justify giving yourself a break? That’s because the distance from your desk to your loo is slowly stretching those rigid joints and is breaking the obsessive cycle that is your essay. Exercise helps, even when you don’t realise you’re exercising. It’s not just those endorphins interreacting with the receptors in your brain that is helping, it’s also the routine you’re managing to establish. You’re giving yourself a structured day, and here are a few reasons why that structure is beneficial:
- Basic science, mate: Researchers at the University of British Columbia found that ‘regular cardio boosts the size of the hippocampus, [not a camp for hippos, I checked] the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning.’ Those of us who exercise understand that once you’ve finished, that fog in your head has cleared away, and you can focus a lot more on the tasks you have ahead of you. That nervous tick is gone, you take in more information, and this is because your body isn’t craving the movement it clearly needs.
- Morning routine: Have you ever found yourself on campus, having coffee with a friend, thinking about the exercise you might do, but also the fifty-thousand other little tasks you must finish that day? Write, edit, laundry, food shop etc. Unless you start your morning with a clear mind, hours can pass with you thinking about what you need to do, and not actually doing it. What I find best is exercising in the morning. You wake up, you go for a brisk walk, or run, or lift weights, and then you shower. You’re now awake and feeling fresh. I’m sure we can all relate to that feeling when we’ve realised we haven’t showered for two days because we’ve hit the snooze button and our lecturers won’t give us a break. Just wake up a little earlier, walk a little longer, then shower that existential dread away. I promise you’ll feel better for it.
3. Confidence: Exercise doesn’t have to be the thing that gives you self-worth, but if your essays aren’t going the way you planned, and your personal life is getting on top of you, it doesn’t hurt to make little goals to improve your health. Activities like hiking not only strengthens your body but gives you the chance to think as you walk. Time by yourself can be a great way to rearrange your proprieties, and often you find yourself improving academically because your check list is in order, your endorphins are flowing, and generally you just feel better about yourself. There’s a placebo effect of achieving just one little thing each day that makes you believe you can achieve.