Even when we aren’t sheltering at home, it can be hard to sit for hours in front of a screen. Too much time grading papers or working at a screen, and I’m ready to jump out of my skin. If we aren’t careful, working at home can lead to extended seated periods and risk mental burnout.
However, for many working at home, more flexibility is possible if we discipline ourselves. Since teaching keeps me bound to the clock for classes, meetings, and duty periods, time to exercise isn’t part of the equation. By the time I get home, my brain is fried, and my body wants to flop on the couch.
Running around the hallways at school to make copies and go to the bathroom isn’t quite the same as a brisk walk to clear the mind. My current work situation is not as strictly governed by the clock, so I’m taking advantage of it. It’s been a breakthrough time for my writing life.
After schoolwork in the mornings, I’ve found a short walk energizes me for afternoon writing sessions. I figured this out quite by accident. After developing a regular walking routine, I noticed an improvement in my writing productivity.
Besides the walk breaks after teaching duties, I also take occasional pre-work morning walks. Then I go out again later depending on the day, the weather, and the company. Sometimes I go alone. Other times I go with my husband or a friend (socially distanced).
The more I stayed consistent about walking each day, the better my work and writing productivity became. When I moved more, I wrote more and wrote better. I did a little digging and found out there is science behind it.
Scientific American published an article in 2018 explaining the overwhelmingly positive benefits of exercise on the brain. One key passage explains:
“Exercise affects the brain in many ways. It increases heart rate, which pumps more oxygen to the brain. It aids the release of hormones which provide an excellent environment for the growth of brain cells.”
This surprised me because I didn’t know once a person was an adult that growth of new brain cells was even possible. Upon further research, I found an article from the Journal of Physiology that clearly supports the notion that aerobic exercise is beneficial to the brain, including neurogenesis. It states:
“Aerobic exercise, such as running, has positive effects on brain structure and function, such as adult hippocampal neurogenesis (AHN) and learning.”
I take both of these articles to mean we are primed for better creativity by aerobic exercise. More oxygen to the brain means better alertness. Growth of new neurons means we are better able to learn and create. Exercise also reduces stress. When we are less stressed, our minds can make space for creative work.
In the time I’ve been sheltering at home, I have walked at least five days a week. My writing productivity has increased markedly as well. Even during this stressful time of trying to teach from home and help my own children with their schoolwork, I’m more productive creatively.
My walks have become an indispensable part of my physical and mental health, as well as a shot in the arm to boost my creativity. Have you experienced a similar phenomenon? What steps can you take to boost your creative output by incorporating exercise?
Stay well and write well!