Something I’ve noticed that writers tend to do is sit…and sit…and sit in front of their computers, day in and day out, drafting, re-writing, editing, formatting, etc, etc. And if they’re not doing that then they tend to sit…and sit…and sit reading other novels (because you can’t write unless you read – and that is a fact). Now I am saying this as a general statement. Not all writers do this and to those of you that do get up and move your body every day, well, good on you. You are on the right track. I’m guilty of doing this myself, but I found something out. I feel stale when I do this and I can’t get the words out quite right or, sometimes, not at all. So this is a post about your brain on exercise and why I am going to encourage you to do it (exercise, that is).
Various scientific studies have been done to prove that exercise is not only good for your body, but also good for your brain. These studies have shown that exercise significantly improves cognition, decreases stress and anxiety, improves self-esteem (great for when you’re on the query trail), and decreases depression (great for when you receive the dreaded “no” time and time again).
The part of your brain that is directly affected by exercise is the hippocampus, the brain’s centre for learning and memory. Exercise increases the production of brain derived growth factor which is a chemical that the hippocampus releases to protect neurons and promote their growth. Neurons are the little suckers that us writers rely on for our work. Without them, we’d be, well, brain dead, so they are something you want to look after.
Exercise also increases blood flow to the brain which encourages neurogenesis – the generation of new brain cells. And who doesn’t want more brain cells, right?
“The way exercise changes our brains is more effective than wine, medicines and doughnuts.”
(John Ratey, author of Spark)
Now, I know I’ve just thrown lots of scientific, big words at you (sorry, I like them, I studied a year of a bachelor of science at university before switching over to teaching), but the gist of it is this:
Get out of the chair every once in a while and get moving. Even if it’s just a short walk around the neighbourhood or to do some squats behind your chair. I promise you it will make all the difference when it comes to your idea generating and your writing in general. You won’t feel fuzzy in the head and everything will just flow so much better, and I’m talking from experience.
I’d love to know if you already exercise regularly, and if so, what is your preferred method of movement? How does it help you personally with your writing?