Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Exercise and Mathematics

I realize that not many people connect physical exercise and doing mathematics, but I do. I suppose this quirky association follows my nonconformist views on most things, but with that said, this still is sort of farfetched. I find that just after strenuous cardiovascular exercise (although concentrated reps of various weights exercises contribute to the effect as well) I am better able to concentrate on doing mathematics than at other times. I’m still trying to assess the reasons for this effect, and I’m doing some analysis of what specific exercises and what duration yields the best effects.

Thus far, I’ve determined that after running at least 3 miles (either treadmill or track, it doesn’t matter), or after running one or more individual fast miles (my best time in the past year is 6:43), for several hours after exercising my mental acuity is much more pronounced. As a result, I’m not only able to concentrate very well on mathematics and mathematical physics, but my level of scientific creativity is more refined during this time.

I look forward to this heightened awareness just after exercising, so I make sure I have allotted the time to find a venue like one of my favorite coffeehouses, cafes, or libraries to spread out my research materials (e.g. yellow books, journals, pre-print articles, etc.) and get to work. On occasion, I will even drive over to a deserted stretch of beach, crack open the back of my SUV, and watch the waves and seagulls while I hunker down with a yellow pad and some cool equations. I notice that the effect diminishes after several hours so I try to optimize my “math super hero” stimulation by staying at it until I can feel myself coming down my geek euphoria.

Also quite odd, when I first began my science metamorphosis about ten years ago, I coupled the physical effects of exercise with audible stimulation. After discussing this habit with a number of other people both in and out of scientific fields, the consensus was they have no idea how I manage it. What I’d do is crank up rock music in my iPod while I’m doing math. It wasn’t just any old rock music, but a rather assaultive genre such as Rage Against the Machine, Third Strike, Korn, and the like. This went on for quite a few years, and then suddenly last year, I couldn’t tolerate the music anymore. There may have been a physiological change within me, although I haven’t identified it. So the net result is that there’s no more loud music going on during my math sessions, but the physical exercise effect is still very beneficial.

1 comment:

  1. HI, youre so right about this. I feel that same thing when I do yoga. Never tried after running but I will.


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