Do you find it find it daunting to stay fit while working on your PhD? With endless to-do lists, it can seem impossible to find some time to think about own wellbeing and take steps to improve it. In today’s post, Sophie discusses why being active during your PhD can offer you many benefits.
Conducting a PhD can be time-consuming. When we are busy, we often forget about our wellbeing, especially physical activity. It may be tempting to continue working at your desk all day, however, there are plenty of benefits to increasing your activity including relieving stress, improved sleep and concentration. I have provided 5 reasons to remain active during your PhD.
#1 Stress reliever
- Research has found that exercise can improve your mood. I find attending a fitness class helps me to unwind after a busy day at work and focus on something else. Attending the gym is a good transition between work and home.
- Tip: Exercising after your working day can be a good way to switch off. Even as simple as going for a gentle short walk if you find you are short on time.
#2 Improved sleep
- An adequate amount of sleep each night is essential for productivity on your PhD. The NHS recommends between 6 and 9 hours of sleep per night. Research has found that exercise can help improve your sleep by reducing stress and improving the quality/amount of sleep. Furthermore, after a good night’s rest, you’re more likely to make better decisions, be distracted less easily and make fewer mistakes.
- Tip: If you often feel tired and unmotivated to exercise in the evening, why not try exercising in the morning? If possible you could try to incorporate exercise into your commute such as walking or cycling to work. Another way to improve the quality of your sleep is by decreasing the time you spend online, see my previous blog for advice.
- To find an activity that you’ll stick to, it’s essential to find something you enjoy and mentally recharge. I recently purchased a second-hand bike and I am really enjoying exercising outdoors amongst nature this summer. I find this has increased the amount I exercise on the weekends too.
- Tip: I mentioned in a previous post why taking a break is a good idea during your PhD. So why not weave exercise into your holiday or weekend? Walking around a new city counts! If you are new to exercise, why not start by making small changes to your daily activity such as taking the stairs instead of a lift or opting for a short walk at lunch break.
#4 Increase productivity
- Taking a break to do exercise especially in the middle of the working day can increase feelings of alertness and therefore productivity! Often the best ideas come from taking a break. I find time away from my screen and a walk after lunch makes me feel more refreshed.
- Tip: Why not get to know your colleagues and invite them to do a power walk with you at lunch? PhD work can often feel solitary at times so it’s important to take time to make friends along the way.
- Exercise doesn’t have to be a sport to be sociable. You can find plenty of ways to meet new people, for example, join a group class at the gym, find a society or even go for a walk with a colleague. I personally find exercising with others more motivational!
- Top tip: Universities offer a number of societies that can help you stay active and make new friends. You can also access free park runs where you can run 5km alongside runners of all abilities, and there is one based in Coventry. If you are new to running you may find this guide useful.
Final words: So why not try out one of these tips? PhD can feel all-consuming at times, it is easy to neglect to stay active. However, exercise can impact how we feel, both our body and mind. Making small changes to your daily routine will make you feel better in various areas of your life, which can positively impact your PhD. If you liked this post, you might like a previous blog drawing similarities to PhD and spinning class.
Have you neglected your physical wellbeing while conducting your research? Do you have any tips that have helped you partake in exercise? Tweet us at @ResearchEx, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a comment below.
Sophie Clohessy is a second year PhD student in the Applied Psychology team, WMG. Her research is investigating eating behaviours in the workplace. She has a background in Health Psychology and is passionate about healthy eating and exercise for wellbeing. You can follow her on Twitter here: @ClohessyS