take a hike

Posted on June 25, 2007


stuck in the sandStuck in a rut and can’t think your way out? Sometimes the least intellectual route is the most productive one, and when it comes to the ability of moderate exercise to stimulate the brain, the results are in.

Hey, we knew this before we invented Science, really. It’s one reason that pilgrimages were so essential to the intellectual life of the Middle Ages: not only did you get out of the castle/hut, but you met new people and challenging situations, stimulating your body and your mind. Fresh situations and fresh environments lead to fresh thinking.

Walk in the footsteps of some of the great writers and if you’re looking for inspiration, check out this post from Poynter Online, the web home for journalists of all descriptions (yes, even bloggers!).

Follow the tracks of Henry David Thoreau, who did his sauntering, as he called it, in the woods of Concord, Mass., around the pond he made famous in “Walden.”

Walking created a direct correlation between Thoreau‘s steps and his productivity.

“The length of his walk uniformly made the length of his writing,” Thoreau‘s mentor, Ralph Waldo Emerson, observed.

“If shut up in the house, he did not write at all.”

The author of that blog post finds that fewer than four thousand steps a day are all that’s necessary to refresh his mind. That’s about two miles or twenty minutes to a half an hour; that’s less time than it takes to argue with yourself about whether or not you’ll do it, so you might as well just get out and do it. Use a watch to time it, or you can measure out a 2 mile route in your car/bike; just don’t forget that it should be one mile out and one back, not two out and flag down a bus to get home.

Sounds obvious, I know, but when you haven’t had your coffee yet and it’s raining you will thank me for the reminder.

Customize this for your own mind and body: mine don’t even start to wake up until about mile four, but that’s just me. Start small by measuring blocks if miles is too big. If you underestimate your fitness and you’re ready for more by the time you reach home, you aren’t contractually obliged to stop; you can keep going in the opposite direction for awhile. Then you can turn around when your body tells you to and enjoy an evening of enhanced brainpower. Strip Sudoku anyone?

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