I don’t know about you but inactivity starts getting to my head after a while. I am not sure why, but after being sedentary for a while my brain feels heavy, sluggish and sleepy. Such was the case after watching a few episodes on a streaming service this evening. I didn’t really want to continue watching after a few hours but equally I wasn’t sure what to do instead. Ideally I would have gone for a jog, but I have a self-imposed ban for a week due to a recurring calf problem so I paced around the house a bit and ate a pack of crisps. It occurred to me though that I could go for a long walk instead. A walk may not get the adrenaline pumping but it would mean fresh air to blow the cobwebs away and some compromise positive exercise on my calves. I donned my coat and out I went.

It is overcast tonight so no stars to gaze at or ponder over which constellation they belonged to, just a grey orange hued sky which darkened at the horizon. I tried not to decide where to walk in advance but instead encouraged myself to feel the right way at decision points. I concentrated on keeping a good pace, monitoring my injuries and letting my mind float wherever it wanted. I guess it is a meditation of a sort, pounding the streets. I reviewed the programmes I had watched and then slipped back to the online courses I have been browsing.

I have been thinking of late about whether to reconnect with university studies again and if so what would it be. A short lecture on the theory of relativity I read triggered memories of studying General Relativity during the final year of my undergraduate course. I did well in the course but apart from sixty-four variable tensor matrices, nothing really comes back to me from that time. It seems to me that I have forgotten most of my university level maths so I wondered what it would be like to revisit it. I came across a free online course (MOOC) entitled  “An Introduction to General Relativity” and I signed up and watched a couple of videos.

As I was walking I recalled the leap that Einstein made over Newton when it came to physical equations of motion. Newton’s formulation had time as an independent variable, motion in space happened with no effect on time, whilst Einstein tied space and time together. In Newtonian mechanics one person standing still whilst another travelled at speed would have the same perception of time, whilst in Einstein’s formulation, the person travelling at speed would perceive time as moving more slowly compared to the stationary person. In essence, moving in time and space means that one is younger than somebody staying stationary (i.e. only moving in time).

It seemed to me that an analogy of this could be applied to real life (in order to experience time moving more slowly due to motion, one would need to travel a close to the speed of light which is not achievable at the moment). It feels to me that time moves more slowly when I am doing nothing. It is as though inactivity brings on premature aging. Getting out and moving enlivens my body and in return, gets my brain processing more freely. But I think there is more to the analogy than just movement, there is the experiences one gains when one goes out and about. I think experiencing life first hand helps us feel younger too as well as helping time seemingly pass more quickly, meeting the new and embracing it keeps us young too.

I am minded of my friends who have recently returned to our town after travelling around Europe on their bikes for nearly two years. My friend said stepping off the coach it seemed that they were waking from a dream, so much of the place the same as when they left. For the people left behind, two years had passed with infrequent updates of what the travellers had been up to, whilst to the travellers nothing had changed. We had aged two years whereas they hadn’t. Maybe that is stretching an analogy a tad but I do think our perception of time is different when we are busy. The real world seems to move on much faster when I am occupied doing something. For instance I am always surprised at how long it takes me to write a blog post, it always takes me longer than my experience would suggest. A good book or a good TV programme can have the same effect, time seems to get lost far too quickly when I am engrossed in something. Well that is my excuse for turning up late a lot of the time.

Whether I have aged slower than my dog (who stayed at home snoozing in the hallway) due to going out for a long walk isn’t measurable but one thing is for sure, getting out was good for my mind. The walk helped alleviate the doldrums I was sinking into and allowed me to make creative connections in my mind whilst reviewing the day. Thus I was inspired to have something to write about. Nothing new there perhaps, exercise is good for us, but maybe the thought that movement helping to prolong your life by slowing down time may give you the incentive to get out the door in the first place. No? Well it was just a thought.