Why you shouldn’t skip your workout session while doing your PhD

Recently on Quora, someone asked if it was okay to skip exercising in order to focus on the PhD and restart the workout routines after the 3 years. I think you need balance to do a great job. And it includes physical activities. Given my experience, you should not skip working out for several reasons:

#1. You said the first one: gain weight. Weight might have an influence on self confidence, and you need some to achieve great things. Thus take care of your PhD, take care of your self-confidence, take care of your weight.

#2. Mental and physical health. The effects of sport are broad. From cognition (attention, memory, reasoning, etc…) to emotion effects (self-confidence, feelings of belonging, accomplishment and enjoyment, etc…), including stress reduction, prevention of diseases, etc… Doing a PhD is a long term goal, being healthy will be crazy helpful, if not necessary, to get the work done.

#3. Creativity, motivation and efficiency. Creativity: you need to refresh your mind to come up with new ideas. Working out is refreshing both your body and your mind.Motivation: if you are forgetting the other areas of your life, at one point you might also forget why you are working on your project and might experience burnout. Again, it’s a long term fight. Working out will help you to refresh, stay motivated and keep your mind focus on what’s important. Efficiency: improving your cognition skills will enhance your productivity.

#4. Look at tips for PhD students that professors or postdocs wrote (just Google ‘PhD tips’, or look at this one, it is crazy helpful) and at the biography of successful people (including successful scientists). I have never read that having a 50:50 work/sleep balance was a good idea. What I have often seen though is the importance of these four points all together: sleep+social+sport+hard work. I would also add healthy diet 🙂

#5. If you can’t find any time for 30 min of workout per day, how do you expect to find time for other important stuff? Like networking, reading job-unrelated books, traveling, hobbies, friends&family, etc… There must be a way to adapt your schedule and find time to work out. Also, you won’t get less busy after the PhD, it is very likely to be even worst.

Possible solutions:

1. Have a morning routine which includes a workout session. Here are the physical exercices I do every morning, so that I don’t skip any workout session + it’s enough to get in shape + you feel great and refreshed for the whole day. FYI, here is my morning routine, it really helped to improve my productivity.

2. Have an evening routine including a workout session.

3. Start your day earlier so that you can enjoy the evening (or do the opposite way).

4. Work out on weekends + be very active during your day: stand up instead of sitting, take the stairs, go for a 10 minutes walk every two hours, etc…

Take home message: work hard but keep the balance right (sleep+social+sport+hard work+healthy diet). Best luck for you PhD!

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