Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The effectiveness of exercise and time away from your business

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Shreya Christinahttps://cafe-madrid.com
Shreya has been with cafe-madrid.com for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider cafe-madrid.com team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

By Andrew McConnell, co-founder and CEO of Rented.com and WSJ bestselling author of: get out of my head.

When I looked back at many of my more recent articles, a striking theme emerged. Almost all of them referred to how the concepts in the article first occurred to me while I was swimming. This may leave many readers wondering if I’ve been living in water all my life. I don’t, but I do get 10 to 60 minutes in the ocean every day.

For me, however, it raised another question: why? Since I spend between 0.7% and 4% of my time in the water, why do my ideas for articles seem to only arise during this period? By answering this question, I gained even more insight into the workings of my mind, and of our brains more generally, which I thought was worth sharing.

Exercise and effectiveness

As someone who runs a business, many people may think that my daily swims are detrimental to my effectiveness. This time “away” from the business is time to be spent on the business.

When I researched this question, I found that the opposite was true. In a survey of more than 1 million Americans, researchers found that “regular exercise reduced the number of days per month with poor mental health by more than 43%.” Why would my business benefit from having more positive mental health? Because, like the World Health Organization finds, workplaces that promote mental health are “more likely to reduce absenteeism, increase productivity and reap the associated economic benefits.” Working out the time “away” benefits me, my employees, my customers and our company as a whole.

Exercise and creativity

Okay, practice can make me more productive and increase the economic benefits to my business, but what does that have to do with helping me come up with new ideas for articles? This is where another benefit of exercise comes in. It not only helps with physical and mental health and well-being; Exercise has also been found to make you more creative.

A study cited by the World Economic Forum showed that “activity and creativity are linked”. Mainly, “[s]study participants with active lifestyles were found to be more creative than those with more sedentary habits.” Being active, like I am while swimming, unlocks a part of me that might otherwise shut down if I sat in front of my keyboard and monitor all day.

These benefits are not unique to me, or just coming up with new ideas for articles. The boost in creativity continues in everything I do then, from ideas for new products and improvements to existing products to solving problems when problems (inevitably) arise in the company to writing an entire book. This boost in creativity makes me and my company more innovative and simply better.

And for those who read who may be more motion-shy, don’t worry. The same study found that “extremely vigorous exercise did not outperform moderate exercise at stimulating creativity.” You don’t have to go out and train to be the next Michael Phelps or Katie Ledecky. You just have to go out and start moving.

A silent mind

And when it comes to exercise, why swimming versus running, walking or going to the gym? They are all forms of exercise and exercise, so why does swimming have such a big impact on my creativity and productivity? To me, this comes down less to what swimming offers compared to these other forms of exercise and exercise, and more to what it not have sound.

When I’m on dry land, I’m invariably on a live call or on the phone or video calling. If not, I’m reading something; listening to music, a book or a podcast; or otherwise inundated with new information. Perhaps this is not surprising, given that we are creating new information at a pace never seen or accepted before in human history. For example, In 2017 alone we have created more data than in the previous 5000 years of human existence! And the pace of data creation is only increasing. With so much information constantly being formed around us, it may be inevitable that we end up being inundated with the same.

Or is it?

This is where swimming, especially ocean swimming, has been a game changer for me. It is a time without headphones, without other people, with no sound other than the rushing of the water past my ears. And in this period of ‘silence’ my brain does something else. In her article “Why ‘disposing’ increases your creativityexplains Dr. Susan Weinschenk explains why.

“If you [prefrontal cortex] too focused on the ‘task at hand’ it cannot start looking for interesting combinations of information that you have stored in memory. If you take a break… then your PFC is free to search and combine.”

Swimming offers exactly this kind of break that makes all the difference for me. That said, you don’t need an ocean in your backyard to access the same benefits. If you need a few tips to get started and keep going, here’s what I recommend:

1. Make time for it. We all know that our days “get full”, but what if they were only filled around what you already prioritized? Block the time to get up and move or even exercise.

2. Track your performance. This will help you see if you’re staying true to your stated goal and if and where it’s making a difference. If you see a noticeable positive difference when you move/exercise, you are more likely to stick with it.

3. Lower your bar. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good! You don’t have to train for an Ironman. Just start moving.

When you know the power of exercise and movement, the benefits of taking breaks, and the desirability of periodically silencing the incessant noise in your life, you can start creating your own routines and rituals to use your own inner creativity and productivity.

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