Anything but comp prep


in Daily updates, Psychology, Rants

Partly because of its supposed effectiveness in countering stress, spending moderate amounts of time at the gym falls within what I consider acceptable procrastination. It certainly helps that the Hart House gym has pretty good hours and is only a four minute walk from my bedroom (as well as the libraries where I should generally be embedded for the next month).

Generally, I do 25 minutes of cardio on an elliptical machine, run a lap, do another 25 minutes of cardio, run another lap, and then row for 2000 metres. Even with my new glasses, I don’t find that I can effectively read during any of these activities, so it’s also a chance to catch up on Planet Money, This American Life, The Current (I tend to avoid the most depressing stories), and the Savage Lovecast (abrasive, but a useful source of perspective – like his long-running column). I wish Stephen Fry released his podgrams much more often (the one on language is wonderful, and an antidote to pedantry).

When working on exceptionally daunting and unpleasant tasks, I have to suspend the rules of my normal procrastination flowchart, since following it would easily allow me to cut study time to nothing. Beyond the gym, a few forms of acceptable non-study activity include corresponding with friends and family members (though I am still well behind); dealing with especially time-sensitive tasks; purchasing, cooking, and eating brain-sustaining food; taking and posting photos of the day; and doing a quantity of paid work that reduces the rate at which my savings are depleting.

Less justifiable activities that sometimes sneak in are the occasional ladder game of Starcraft II (seems to raise wakefulness as much as a large cup of coffee, without insomniac side-effects), reading materials unrelated to the comp, and ongoing endless correspondence with the Canada Revenue Agency.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Matt August 1, 2014 at 1:00 am

I too have heard about the supposed stress relieving aspects of exercise. I think at best, my physical reaction to stress might be altered, but it hardly seems as though the demands of work are less stressful, even with exercise.

Anyway, it has other benefits. I’ve taken up running which seems to keep the pudge at bay, even if running itself feels miserable at times.

Have you tried the Ricky Gervais podcast? They are brainless, but often funny. Probably a good match for the gym.

. August 1, 2014 at 11:15 pm
. August 2, 2014 at 10:19 am

Exercise for depression

Exercise is moderately more effective than no therapy for reducing symptoms of depression.

Exercise is no more effective than antidepressants for reducing symptoms of depression, although this conclusion is based on a small number of studies.

Exercise is no more effective than psychological therapies for reducing symptoms of depression, although this conclusion is based on small number of studies.

The reviewers also note that when only high-quality studies were included, the difference between exercise and no therapy is less conclusive.

Attendance rates for exercise treatments ranged from 50% to 100%.

The evidence about whether exercise for depression improves quality of life is inconclusive.


Exercise for preventing and treating anxiety and depression in children and young people

Exercise is promoted as an active strategy to prevent and treat depression and anxiety. We found that the research data are sparse and mostly done on college students. Six small trials indicate that exercise decreases reported anxiety scores in healthy children when compared to no intervention. Five small trials indicate that exercise decreases reported depression scores when compared to no intervention. The research base for children in treatment is scarce; only three small trials investigated the effect of exercise in depression.

Milan August 2, 2014 at 7:58 pm


I’ve heard pretty widely differing accounts about the usefulness of exercise as a means of controlling stress, with some people making the case more forcefully than can probably be justified.

That said, even if exercise has limited benefits in itself, there is definitely a drop-off in productivity that accompanies trying to spend too many hours in a row studying. Exercise is a decent way to take a mental break and – unlike many other activities – it’s not the sort of thing that carries a danger of expanding from an hour’s time investment to two or three or five, for me at least.

If I find my gym time exhausting my current crop of podcasts, I will consider giving Gervais a listen. I wish the QI podcast was available through the iTunes Store, for ease in automatically loading an iPod.

oleh August 4, 2014 at 4:40 pm

I see exercise as a major reliever of stress for myself, or perhaps more accurately preventing the build-up of stress.

There is additional enjoyment if I am outside (especially in a forest) and exercising with friends.

oleh August 9, 2014 at 4:38 am

Your cardio regime is quite impressive. I find the rowing machine which I rarely do a killer.

Milan August 9, 2014 at 10:27 am

Rowing is tiring, but 2000m on the highest resistance setting only takes ten minutes.

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