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Non-academic activities that have helped you academically?

  1. Feb 9, 2013 #1
    Lately, I've been thinking about how past non-academic hobbies, habits, etc might have contributed to my current academic habits and success in college. I'm starting this thread because I'm curious to hear about other people's as well.

    Strangely, I think that skateboarding has had the most profound positive impact on my academics. Firstly, I think that it helped develop my spacial reasoning and visualization skills. From about the age of 8 until 15, skating was all I cared about so I would spend my time in class day dreaming about skating. I would imagine myself doing a trick over and over in my head until I was satisfied with how well I could "do it". Sometimes it would keep me up at night and I would have to think about the trick just right before I could relax... Kind of obsessive, I know. Anyhow, I think that this greatly increased my spacial reasoning skills in physics. Secondly, I think that it has greatly helped my study habits. I would spend hours and hours trying one single trick, and I just couldn't stop until I finally perfected it but I would never get tired of trying. This is what I spent my time doing for basically 8 years of my life and I feel that is the reason that I can work on math/physics problems for hours without getting discouraged, whereas my friends lose interests easily when learning something difficult. This has probably been the MOST helpful thing for my academics and I could go on with how skating has helped me...

    After a knee surgery, I wasn't able to skate for a while so I had to find something new... video games. I'm convinced that video games have also helped my academic habits. I would sometimes spend 12+ hours a day playing video games without really taking any breaks. The key is that they were shooting games and constantly required full concentration. This really helped train my brain to concentrate for extended periods of time and has really come in handy in college. Also, I believe that video games have helped me with test taking. They've helped me learn how to handle stressful situations that require thinking on your toes.

    These are just a few that I've come up with... anyone else ever think about this?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 9, 2013 #2
    I think running helped me as it made me think more clearly when I am physically fit, and thus helps my academics by making me a more efficient learner. I also agree with the video game to an extent, I was an avid WoW player and was highly ranked. I think being at the top made me competitive and I had to outwit my opponents to win games. This has carried over into my studies as I learned how to basically be at the top.

    I have actually done some thinking on this, but I think an RTS game like wc3 is more complex than introductory physics. There are a lot of caveats and special things in that game that only the trained eye can see, so it did help me learn that to be proficient at it you must be well-trained.

    Now the part about being only to a certain extent. This extent is that the time you must put into the game to be top dog vs. the carry over it has in academics is questionable. What if I spent those 10 hours a day that I was playing wc3 on studying physics or chemistry in HS? How much further would I be ahead than where I am now? Probably hugely ahead.
  4. Feb 9, 2013 #3
    Good point. But you might also be burnt out. There is something disenchanting about spending hours learning something on your own and then feeling like it was for no reason because you have to slog through it again anyway. Though, chances are you probably wouldn't have retained much of that stuff anyway.
  5. Feb 10, 2013 #4
    I guess eating tons and tons of chicken helped me academically.
  6. Feb 10, 2013 #5
    I've always felt as if I go through my homework more easily after some sort of physical activity.

    Also chicken.
  7. Feb 10, 2013 #6
    Mainly this:

  8. Feb 10, 2013 #7
    It really depends on what you mean here. There are activities that could be considered non-academic that I partake in that may have helped me improve my critical thinking skills, my reading comprehension, or my ability to memorize things (video games, various puzzles, learning a new language, that sort of thing). There are also activities like exercise which tend to help me in academic activities in a less direct way.

    I have been cycling quite a bit for the past 2 years or so and I always feel less stressed out afterwards. I take that time to study. It works best for me that way, since I feel less anxious about getting started in the material, and well, I don't know how to explain it really, it puts me in the mood for physics!
  9. Feb 10, 2013 #8


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    Playing guitar.
  10. Feb 10, 2013 #9


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    Art, and Martial Arts.

    For both, it's common to realize you have a problem/issue *right here*. So you focus your solution *right here*. But in fact, the solution can be found *over there*.

    It's a lesson that has helped me in many ways.
  11. Feb 10, 2013 #10
    art for me
  12. Feb 10, 2013 #11
    Playing Command and Conquer growing up and working as a manual laborer between my freshman and sophomore year. The latter developed my attitude towards putting in a days hard work.

    I may say weightlifting too because if anyone picked on my nerdiness I would deck them in the face hahaha.
  13. Feb 11, 2013 #12
    Lego, K'nex, anything with wheels I can go fast on, Dino-Riders cartoon from 1988, learning to season beef, some stuff I'll remember when I wake up again
  14. Feb 11, 2013 #13
    Oh yeah, Lego, specifically the Technix. I made so many crazy physics/engineering things with those growing up.
  15. Feb 11, 2013 #14


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    For me, practicing Hatha Yoga has helped me for a lifetime of intellectual advancement. It helps my mental disipline, among other benefits.
  16. Feb 11, 2013 #15
    Strength training sometimes helps me to relax my mind and be ready for doing math/physics/studying, When you always try to lift heavier weights and do harder exercises you can't help but stop thinking for things that bother you and focus on your training. After 1-2 hours even if your body feels exhausted your mind is pretty clear. Also eating a lot seems to help me study science subjects.
    The other thing is videogames. I most of the time play them on the hardest difficulty( today's single player games are pretty easy and usually people play them for the story not that much of a challange ) which makes me fail multiple times and I have to try again. This is similar to what happens in math/phys when you try to understand something new or solve a problem. You fail multiple times until you are able to find a solution.
  17. Feb 11, 2013 #16


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    Running and exercise! Seriously, don't neglect these, ever.
  18. Feb 11, 2013 #17
    Yeah, I don't know about video games. It sounds good on paper. I remember back when I was a kid in the 80's trying to justify all the time I used to spend playing pinball and the just-on-the-scene video games like space invaders and Asteroids. I heard somewhere that these things increase "hand-eye coordination," and tried to feed that line to Mom who partially went for it. I got a little boost when I won a $500 dollar Asteroids contest at the local miniature golf course game arcade in 1982. Of course, the money was paid in game tokens. I guess somehow I spent them all. In any case, I was able to convince Mom that I was the next whiz kid in middle school and she bought me a Vic20 the same year. It wasn't long before I was writing video games and having Compute! magazine write me checks for them. Not bad for a 14 year old. Unfortunately, I asked for a surfboard the following year instead of upgrading to the Commodore 64 and there went my Hi-tech pipedream.

    In any case, I don't think that video games helped my academic career much. Exercise is great but its great for everything, just as eating, breathing, and staying alive is great for everything. So IMO its not really relevant to the OP's question. The thing I think helps alot is doing things with your hands. Building a cabinet or a chest of drawers or something. Those prepackaged things you get at Walmart are great..i.e., desks, stools, entertainment centers, etc. That you have to construct from a kit. Piaget said that the operations of thought are based upon the manual sensorimotor coordinations we learn early in life, I believe this.

    I remember in, middle school again, taking wood shop and metal shop to try to get out of taking some otherwise academic class and thinking I was real sly getting away with it. The irony is that I really think that these classes did more for me than any other academic class would have because of the operational logic imbued into my brain through the precise acts of construction I needed to manifest and produce the class items required.
  19. Feb 11, 2013 #18
    And, I am convinced that eating and sleeping a lot have helped me a lot academically :smile: :wink:
  20. Feb 12, 2013 #19


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    Especially at that age! For me, "academic" classes were all but a waste of time in middle school. But I learned valuable skills from doing hands-on projects in those years.
  21. Feb 12, 2013 #20
    I don't have any non-academic activities besides playing videogames but those never really helped me academically.
  22. Feb 12, 2013 #21


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    There's definitely character building to be had when doing hands-on crafts, arts and shop-work.

    Try changing the struts on a 15yr old car from the northern US. After you break your 4th bolt, or strip a camber bolt trying to get it out and having to drill/tap a ton, 3 runs to the store for pb blaster, extractor sets etc., you learn to take a few breaths and realize that skill and knowledge can only get you 10% of the way sometimes, and sheer perseverance through frustration is the only way to finish the job. I find this translates well to coding and a lot of the math I do in high level physics.

    Learning other utilities than auto work helps too. In the past 2 years I have learned how to do electric work (already knew sorta), plumbing, drywall, tiling, flooring, etc. While these things are great and I notice myself doing a better job than any contractor I've ever hired, the true lesson is that nothing should be intimidating, and one can draw confidence from independent competence. I feel that there is nothing in my life that I MUST rely on someone else to do for me.

    This attitude can keep you academically from having the mindset of "the prof is just a bad teacher, Dr. So and so was a much better professor, he kept me interested". You need to realize that you can teach yourself the material, and you don't get to blame others for not making the experience "easy enough". If you haven't pre-read the chapter before going to class, you haven't even begun to make a true effort at learning the material.

    Video games, while they can suck the time from your life, have increased my coordination, reflexes, and attention to detail. I'm not talking about 6 hours of slow-moving Halo, but rather the old days of way-too-fast Quake3 rail wars, Starcraft/etc. It teaches you strategy as well. I would compare it to the change you feel after you start playing chess for the first time; when you realize that you can think quite far ahead in probabilities for every-day life situations.

    I wouldn't say video games helped academically, but rather overall in life.

    READING is huge as well, if you can sit for 2 hours and read a book at night (myself , on a weekend, its more like 5 hours....) than you should have no problem reading a textbook rather than just using it for equation look-up and homework problems. Learn to focus on a singular task, but not with tunnel vision.

    Those are some.
  23. Feb 13, 2013 #22
    Ironically, guitar negatively affected my academic life, especially when I started studying classical guitar. I got so absorbed in it (much like the OP) to the point where I was able to play really advanced pieces like Recuerdos de la Alhambra at the age of fourteen. Then I burnt out. Six years all but wasted, and my academic life has only just recently started recovering. I was truly addicted.

    On a more positive note, having an exercise regimen has helped me learn how to more constructively devote myself to something. I would recommend it to anybody.
  24. Feb 13, 2013 #23


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    Something else mentally stimulating or helpful? Playing FPS (and trying not to swear loudly), Go, opening 45 tabs of new articles at once, reading PF/MHF, books, writing bad poetry, drinking caffeine, eating healthy, cycling or other general exercise, sleep.
  25. Feb 19, 2013 #24
    Mountain climbing no doubt. I always get As on my finals when I mountain climb the weekend before finals week. Of course, I always get As anyway... but hey, who's counting.
  26. Feb 19, 2013 #25

    True words
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