Preparing for the bar exam sometimes feels overwhelming and all too often takes over every waking minute of the day. But, if you’re able, consider taking a walk every day for a half an hour or an hour. It’ll make you smarter. I might be a bit biased about this topic because my wife’s family takes a walk together every day and they are the smartest people I know. Or, you know, I could be biased about this topic because I walked across the United States.
But there’s science to back me up! One half an hour or an hour walk every day or two can help improve memory, improve creativity and critical thinking, strengthen mental health, and improve physical well being. And it’s cheap!
1. Walk to Improve Memory
It’s been said before, but every bar exam prep strategy should include time for exercise. It’s obvious from my silhouette that I’m not a personal trainer, so if you have an exercise routine that works for you, then try your best to stick to it while studying for the bar. But, whether you’re a gym rat or not, a walk every day can improve your brain’s ability to remember and can help set the day’s study in your memory.
Probably the most intimidating thing about the bar exam is the massive amount of material you’ll have to memorize, and there are a lot of great strategies you can employ to improve your memorization. But there are a lot of studies showing that walking, as little as 10 minutes a day, can greatly improve the brain’s ability to remember and to distinguish between similar memories.
2. Walk to Improve Creativity and Critical Thinking
You know who liked to take walks every day? Beethoven. And Einstein. And Steve Jobs. And Charles Dickens, Mahatma Gandhi, Nassim Taleb, and Soren Kierkegaard. And also my wife. All of these people are geniuses and each one of them attributed some of their genius to their daily walks. This is because walking doesn’t just improve memory, but it can also improve your creativity and cognitive ability.
And I’m not the first lawyer to advocate walking. Justice William Douglas of the United States Supreme Court took daily walks to stay sharp and walked 15 to 20 miles every Sunday to stay in shape. He even hiked the entire 185-mile C&O Canal trail in an effort to save it from becoming a highway.
3. Walk to Improve Mental Health And Happiness
The bar exam is stressful. That’s just a fact. You think law school is stressful and, sure, law school is stressful in its own way. But the bar exam? It’s a different kind of stressful. Be sure to build stress management techniques into your bar exam strategy. Taking a walk has been proven not only to increase memory and cognitive ability but also to lower stress.
Law school and the legal industry can sometimes empower toxic behaviors that can lead to burn out and depression. A daily walk won’t eradicate those stressors or reform the entire industry, but study after study proves that a daily walk can help fight off depression, raise mood, and prevent burn out.
4. Walk to Improve Physical Health
It goes without saying that physical activity, including walking, improves physical health. And anyone who has been through the bar exam can tell you that, all too often, studying for the bar exam exacts a toll on one’s health. It’s sometimes difficult to justify taking a few hours off here or there for trips to the gym. But it’s easier to justify it if you can consider it a part of your bar prep strategy.
Walk to Take Control of Your Life During Bar Prep
I read a lot about walking when I walked across America with my dog. It took me 8 months, and I had a lot of downtime to do a lot of reading. During that long walk I read that the average American walked 350 yards per day. Three hundred fifty yards! I was routinely walking 25 and 30 miles per day when I read this so I couldn’t imagine a life so sedentary.
But, soon after I returned to the real world, it dawned on me that it was probably true. The truth is that our modern lives are not built around walking and that makes it difficult to find time for a stroll. Add in the pressures of studying for the bar and it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day, like the bar exam is going to swallow your whole life.
But it doesn’t have to. Get out there and go for a walk. It’ll help, and I promise that the bar review materials will be there when you get back.