It’s not a secret anymore; you need a certain dose of physical activity to perform well at chess. Top GMs who practice some kind of sport are countless[i]. So why not you?
Let’s review the 3 main excuses people use to avoid working out and deconstruct them one by one to help you find your own way forward.
I don’t need to exercise
First, we all know being physically active has many health benefits, including:
- Decreases the risk of bad health conditions and various diseases, like high cholesterol, diabetes, stroke, certain types of cancer, arthritis, cardiovascular diseases.
- Regulates your weight. Workouts are often combined with many diets for optimal results.
- Fights stress. Quick exercise or walking stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed.
- Reduces fatigue. Regular physical activity means more energy for you[ii]. Useful after 4 hours of play, right?
If you’re not convinced yet, don’t forget that body and mind are closely linked. Doing sports will also help you boost your brain, and subsequently your chess development along the way, in the following ways:
- Improves focus. The best scientific evidence comes from this study where just 10 minutes of playful coordination skills, like bouncing two balls at the same time, improved the attention of a large group of German teenagers.
- Slows cognitive decline. Staying physically fit keeps your brain healthy when you get older[iii].
- Improves memory. Last but not least, experiments in children, adults and the elderly show that the brain structure linked to memory grows as people get fitter.
Finally, you should reconsider saying you don’t need to exercise considering all the benefits you can get from it.
Let’s move on now to the second most used argument.
I don’t like physical exercising
Ok let’s say this is true. But what do we actually mean by exercising?
Basically, physical activity is anything that makes you move your body and burn calories.
So, even just walking is already great. It’s enjoyable, free, simple, social and great exercise. If you need something more stimulating, you could opt for a dancing or swimming.
There are literally thousands of disciplines out there. The only thing you have to do is search, then try and once you’ll find what fits you, simply enjoy!
To have some extra motivation, find a partner or have music with you.
So, unless you have tried every sport, you should refrain from saying you don’t like to move your body.
Now, I suggest we have a look at the most popular reason used to not exercise: time.
I don’t have time for sports
First things first, we have already established the fact that you actually practice some sport unless you have found a way not to walk in your everyday life. Here is your first win, congratulations!
Second, everyone has to start somewhere even if you’ve been inactive for years. Besides walking, you can set a reachable goal for today and then improve the tempo gradually (you remember the habit creation stuff?). 1 minute of targeted sport is perfect, something is always better than nothing!
Third, you don’t necessarily need to make some free time in your overloaded schedule. Opportunities are out there for you to grab:
- Convert every opportunity to walk or bike more.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Exercise while watching the TV.
- Workout with kids (you will find great videos on Youtube)
Fourth, I assure you’ll feel better with these adjustments day by day. So chances are you will need (and possibly even want) more sophisticated sport and therefore yes, more time. To reach that result even for the busiest of you, you should find some solutions in my previous article.
To sum up, you actually do some physical activity and you have all the tools to include exercise in your daily life and you do consequently have time for it now.
Start the change
The benefits you can get from exercising are too good not to consider and should kick start your motivation.
Be sure first to have the approval of your doctor and choose amongst the myriad of physical activities. Find one you enjoy and start softly a new routine. You’ll get hooked in no time.
And with all this extra energy, long games won’t be your worst enemy anymore!
[i] Here is an interesting article from the website chessmaniac.com with many examples of great GM and their sport habits.
[ii] You’ll find here one of the many studies which confirm the energy boost after thanks to exercise.