I have a mentally-stressful work (engineering) and sometimes I find myself thinking/mulling over a problem even when work's over.

I tried many times concentrating while exercising (both repetitive weightlifting or mid-running) but turns out I really can't. I can be productive after workout when I recovered, but there's no way for me to "mentally focus" while exercising (whatever I do).

Is it possible to "parallelize" exercise and mental work/study at the same time?

  • For me this doesn't work: sometimes, to test myself I try to make some medium difficult calculations while running and that is very hard to do. Exercises like running or being busy in the gym is for me mind clearing: after my exercises (under the shower for example) solutions just pop up. May 19, 2014 at 15:36

1 Answer 1


Actually, there are multiple evidence suggesting that your mind keeps processing problem at hand on subconscious level even when you do something else. If anything, change of activity is often advised as a way to resolve dead-ends in engineering problems.

Being a software developer, I've seen this effect on quite a few occasions, when solutions came to me on a treadmill or in the gym.

Running for periods of over 10 minutes is very good for meditative thinking.

As for weight lifting - you can have bursts of mental activity between exercises, but I would try to put all concentration into muscle work while you are in a set. Putting all my effort into it causes a micro-reboot for that particular problem case in the brain and allows me to tackle the problem at different angles.

In short - exercise are very good for solving engineering problems, but the kind of approach you take during them is very different to normal approach. And do mind the safety - you are working metal in there.

  • I'm a SW developer too and I find myself into many of the things you've written. Interesting the micro-reboot thing, not sure if this is just a placebo but perhaps I experience that too
    – user129506
    May 19, 2014 at 10:07

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