While I wrote my last book, I gained ten pounds. It’s easy to do when you sit eight to ten hours a day. Even though I had incorporated walking and weight training into my daily routine, I was out-eating my fat-burning endeavors.
This summer, I hiked the Long Trail in Vermont. Within three weeks, the strenuous mountaineering and limited caloric intake (and the shivering from the cold) helped me shed that weight.
Back at home, I am once again fighting to keep a low BMI (body mass index). Though I usually pay more attention to how my clothes fit and to the scale than the BMI, that number provides a reference that is not easily deniable. I can’t say “My pants must have shrunk in the wash”, or “I’m bloated.” For me, the BMI is like Joe Friday from Dragnet saying, “Just stick to the facts, ma’am.”
Staying in shape is only one of the benefits exercising provides authors. Regular aerobic workouts can boost creativity. If you want an edge over the more sedentary authors, get moving.
According to a Dartmouth College study by researcher Michael Hopkins, “For mental health benefits, what really counts is exercising on a regular basis — not the intensity. You don’t have to wipe yourself out,” Hopkins tells The Huffington Post. “The basic goal is, get up and move your whole body more than half of the days of the week.” Getting the blood pumping and the oxygen to the brain leads to sharper thinking.
“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche,
For me, walking is not enough. I need an intensive workout to feel better and improve concentration. That post-exercise endorphin blast makes me feel good and mentally capable. I feel that I write better after the workout. All that heavy breathing seems to clear out the mental cobwebs.
How much exercise is enough? The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends
- 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) each week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity (such as brisk walking or tennis)
- 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) each week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity (such as jogging or swimming laps)
- An equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity
- Muscle-strengthening activities (such as lifting weights or using resistance bands) that are moderate or high intensity and involve all major muscle groups on two or more days a week.
It only takes thirty minutes a day to keep you fit and and increase your creativity. Instead of wasting the time fighting writer’s block, get up and move, and on a regular basis. According to research, the effects of an active lifestyle do not last forever. If you want to keep that mental edge, you have to exercise regularly.
Recently the Washington Post published “New study says 30 minutes of exercise a day is not enough. You should double or quadruple that.” Researchers conclude that to reduce the risk of heart failure, increase the activity. Nothing in the article mentioned a correlation between longer workouts and increased creativity. It just makes sense to me. What do you think?
Do you exercise to be more creative? If so, what do you do and for how long? I’d love to hear from you.