Muddy Colors just had a really great post by Marc Scheff about the importance of exercise for artists. It's a little long, but definitely worth it. It's really well written and concise (given that the subject is one that a lot more could be said about it). Read it. He outlines some great pillars for a basic routine, and even includes Art-God testimonials!
Like Scheff, admittedly I've been blessed with genetics that do a lot of the heavy-lifting for me, and I've always enjoyed exercise. I like to be active, but that doesn't mean I don't know what it's like to not feel like doing anything, to just want to veg and stuff my face with salty sweets. I'm going into the 35+ stretch amid all the sedentary trappings of work and family life, and I can see how easily it all adds up, the pounds and the suck.
But the bottom line is we want to be better artists and our health is the best tool we've got. There is tons of data out there proving you will be more creative and more agile in your craft by doing so. Ad my testimonial to the list, but go ahead and do your own homework. Start with the basics and find something that works for you. "More Dew and Cheetos is my thing," is a stupid thing, get over it. If "I've got this head sized goiter..." is your thing, I can't help you there. Talk to a professional, preferably the doctor kind.
Before I start let me guess who I'm talking to. You're the struggling to aspire type, the 8-10-12-14hrs a day type. It just keeps piling up, it's almost so depressing that you want to break all your pencils and quit. Everyday 100 better artists than you pop out of nowhere, and they're 10yrs younger than you. Everyone is sooo much better than you, if you could only work harder... then just maybe one day...
Sound familiar? Come along and join the club, it's made for you and me. I want to talk to the most common excuse we use not to exercise and it's context:
I don't have time.
I've got 2 responses to this: 1) Crap, and 2) No crap.
1) Crap. As in: that excuse is so obviously complete crap!
This is a time management issue. I know how much time you waste image-surfing, social-media skimming, and generally over-complicating what you think you need to be accomplishing, all in the name of reference hunting or inspiration trolling. That's just self-deceptive. Really take a look at how much time is actually pencil-to-paper (or canvas, or tablet, etc.). Anything that is not that, is not getting you closer to your objectives.
There are all sorts of things that could be said about practicing smarter, not longer. Check out Brandon Dayton's great posts on the subject under 'How to Draw.' Stick to a schedule of punctuated effort and goals. Just grinding on and on "until it's done" is the most surefire way to kill your motivation and your sense of how much time you're putting into it. You'll end up spending more time to lesser result as a consequence.
But in short, everything you do in the name of 'work' should be enabling 'pencil-to-paper time.' If not, quit it, or it least time box it into a very small amount of time. Stop screwing around and start drawing! That's what you want to be doing anyway right? So do it.
The latest episode of Walking Dead or Game of Thrones? Won't help you draw better. Unlocking achievements in Skyrim, Last of Us, Titanfall? Won't help you draw better. I'm not saying you can't do that very awesome stuff, but do it after hours, not while you're on the clock. You'll be able to free up 20-30-60 minutes a day almost magically, and probably more.
2) No crap. As in: Obviously. Does anybody? No one, that's who.
Let's generously assume we are lean-mean working-machines, as if all 8-10-12 hr of everyday is pencil to paper time. We'd like to think we're that dedicated, that's why we use the excuse: I don't have time. But of course you don't have time, and of course you won't make time because there isn't more time to be made. Does someone out there have a time-press that fabricates more time? Of course not. You need to take the time, and by 'take' I mean 'steal.'
This is essentially the same principle as above. Steal time from all the other things you enjoy so that you can enjoy more of what you enjoy most. You need to steal time back from the things that have already taken all the time you have to offer.
But there is a right and wrong way to implement this. A lot of folks try stealing time from sleep and proper eating, not to mention exercise, to improve their art. But this is completely unsustainable, the net result is less art. Working for a studio can be harsh with long hours; working for yourself can be equally as demanding. In both cases your boss is probably just as desperately going for broke, and is often all too willing to sacrifice long-term advantages for short-term gains.
The long and short-term disadvantages are a loss of productivity, inspiration, motivation, or realistically most devastating: health complications. From eye strain, fatigue, and carpel tunnel to chronic back problems. Yes, many, even most, artists in this industry suffer from these things. And you thought being too awesome was the largest pitfall of the job!
Stealing time from The Man to get out and sweat is an investment in your best and longest running art, and that's ultimately what He wants out of you anyway. I take a long lunch twice a week to go out and play a pickup game of soccer for an hour, then make up that time later in the day (and more productively so!). But be a smart and professional thief, don't bail on an important meeting or blow off a deadline. Don't be a hack job.
Manage your time well, account for and include break-out sessions where you can get out and walk, run, lift or whatever. Good time-management skills are about knowing what is required to enable your most best work, not just naively and destructively promising endless break-neck sprint and marathon schedules.