Researchers sometimes find it difficult to carry out activities outside academic work where everything revolves around the sedentary slug of reading and writing.

As such, exercise is pushed to the side or treated as a bookend activity.

We spring reasonable excuses why going for that run, hitting the gym or even doing those push-ups by our desks would negatively impact the progress of our work.

Yet, if we made the effort to include exercise in our weekly routine, we would not only become more active but also efficient, healthier, happier and more dedicated to our research.

You may like to read – Elmarie’s fitness journey and academia

Here are ten health reasons why researchers should exercise:

#1 – It improves your breathing

Any exercise—running, cycling, stretching—improves breathing.

Respiration supplies a large portion of energy needed in all sports and physical activity. And with improved breathing, a researcher can withstand the pressures of daily work and will be “less likely to be fatigued”.

#2 – It enhances the quality of your sleep

Sleep is vital.

Deficiency of sleep allows for fatigue, encourages weight gain and enables some diseases.

Many researchers may find it difficult to sleep because they are often caffeinated in a bid to meet deadlines, which could lead to insomnia.

However, exercise is a healthy, safe, inexpensive way to improve sleep. To function optimally, sleep is important.

#3 – Great for mental health

Discussions on mental health is gaining ground in academic circles, and with good reason.

The causes of depression and anxiety vary from one individual to the next.

In my case, I experienced depression when I lost my laptop before my confirmation of candidature and through some tough periods on my PhD.

A good dose of exercise—high intensity interval training and strength training—contributed in helping me overcome those moments.

You may like to read – how I dealt with anxiety on my PhD

#4 – Sharpens your mental focus

The metaphorical representation of a researcher’s life is that of a person juggling hundred balls in the market square, hoping against hope that one ball doesn’t find its way to the ground.

From conference and academic papers to write, classes to teach and books to complete, our focus is split across multiple demands on our time.

Although an organised and structured approach to work may help one get things done, exercise also helps the mind concentrate and stay on task.

#5 – Increases your energy level

Researchers need all the energy they can muster to deliver results and meet deadlines.

Incorporating regular exercise into your routine, in addition to other healthy habits like eating right, will boost your energy levels. You will not be getting tired too quickly.

#6 – Exercise increases your stamina

One time, a PhD student smiled as she talked about her work to the audience and answering questions with delight. Minutes later, she collapsed.

We later discovered that she had over worked herself, was binge eating and wasn’t exercising at all.

We don’t want this happening to us, but the longer we push back on making some lifestyle changes for the better, the higher the chances of this happening.

With a healthy diet and exercise regimen, one will get the needed stamina to deliver within and outside the work environment.

#7 – Sharper Memory

Everyday, researchers consume massive information – which makes our memory vital -although I can’t think of an instance where the ability to recollect information isn’t important.

Dr. Joseph Cheung in his book states that exercising improves memory.

Essential exercises—a simple walk or jumping jacks—can make memory stronger.

#8 – Exercise gives us strong bones

Research involves lots of reading and writing, and, often times, standing for long periods during conferences.

Studies have revealed that various sitting postures cause wear and tear overtime.

However, the good news is that exercising has been proved to strengthen bones.

#9 – You are less susceptible to falling ill (think the flu!)

Exercising wards “off infectious illness”

In other words, engaging in exercises three to five days a week has the power to prevent diseases—cancer, cardiovascular dysfunction, arthritis and so on — which could hamper the progression of a researcher’s career.

#10 – Improves self-confidence

Simple exercises like stretches, sprints and heavy lifting contribute to making individuals feel healthy thereby improving self-confidence.

Gentle movements can boost confidence – think Pilates.

For researchers, confidence is key in speaking before a large group, or in one-on-one networking situations. These simple exercise moves may come in handy before a presentation.

These benefits are not exhaustive. However, they should inspire us to make the effort to include exercise in our daily regimen – if only for 5 minutes a day.


Michael Irene is passionate about writing and fitness.

His foray into writing and story telling started with him making comics from age 5.

Michael has a PhD in Creative Writing and has taught on creative writing programmes at Kingston University, London, Anglia Ruskin University, and Cambridge.

He has also hosted many creative writing workshops across primary and secondary schools within the UK.

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