Learn From History's Genius' And Take A Daily Walk: Breaking The Stress-Boasting, Sedentary And Under-Oxygenated Academic Lifestyle in 2016
The idea that academic's should be chained to their desk to be productive, and therefore successful, is not only deeply unhealthy, but also deeply untrue. Nothing curbs productivity and creativity like stagnant, unstimulating surroundings. Stanford University have the evidence to prove it. If that isn't motivating enough: history's genius' have very few common behavioural traits but many do have one thing in common: they all took a daily walk. Nietzsche (2hr walk before lunch, up to 4 hours after), Tchaikovsky (2 hour walk minimum and attributed his success to this walk so much he was deeply superstitious about returning even a minute earlier), Beethoven, James Joyce, Walter Benjamin, Darwin and Dickens, Jobs, and Zuckerberg. Nietzsche even went so far as to say: “It is only ideas gained from walking that have any worth.” (Twilight of the Idols (1889))
In this day and age, it's even more critical. At home, at our desks, we are surrounded by distractions - social media, YouTube, and we stare into the abyss of our Word document hoping whatever it is, will write itself. We believe we're more dedicated because we will spend seven days a week sitting, reading and writing if given the opportunity. We declare the hours as productive because we got that 1,000 words done today. But how many hours did we waste trying to motivate ourselves to finish them? What sugar and caffeinated rubbish did we ingest to feed it? What 'productivity' apps have we downloaded? And, what do we have to tell ourselves just to try and get ourselves in a position where we might even be ready to be productive?
The effects of being inactive on the body are serious. Serious because it affects the heart. Serious because it affects your work. Whatever one of those you find more concerning, use as your motivation. If you're inactive and particularly if you're sitting, your blood pools in your calf muscles forcing the heart to work harder to get blood around, and that over time makes your heart sluggish, the blood flow ineffective. The long-term effects are obviously dangerous to your health, but in the short-term, when you do not have ample and fluid blood supply, your brain does not get the oxygen it needs. This affects your ability to think, and your mood. Those academics who refrain from getting adequate movement into their daily routine are doing exactly the opposite of what is needed for them to be successful, and ultimately, happy.
To take this further, most people will agree that solitary confinement is a form of torture. The effects upon the imprisoned individual's brain is catastrophic after only a short period of time and often results in the types of behaviour distressed, captive animals display, all because of a lack of psychological stimulus. Yet, many academics will try to free themselves of stimulus as far as humanly possible in an attempt to yield deep, innovative thought. It is counterintuitive and counterproductive.
In academia, you often hear people say that to better understand something we can define it by what it is not, or its opposite If you are unsure if your lifestyle is unhealthy, or if you feel your current routine is perfectly adequate, test it's opposite to prove that theory. Take a morning or afternoon walk without simply just reading or writing at your desk, and see if you emerge with any deeper thoughts or understanding, or to see if you emerge happier and more refreshed. We like to experiment after all, and it's just one day. Better still, you haven't got to buy a new bike or pretend you enjoy jogging and kale. It will take only one brisk walk, for around 20 minutes, through somewhere pleasant with sights and sounds to stimulate your brain in areas which become inactive when simply sitting. You'll also breathe 'fresh' air, be away from central heating to get your body to use its own thermostat and you'll have given yourself a free pampering session in the oxygen chamber. You heart and brain will thank you for it, I promise.
If curious or unconvinced, try reading these (whilst tying your trainer laces, of course):