Continuing on our summer theme of exercise on the blog, this week we’re looking at how exercise impacts your energy level. When you’re working long hours or on the go a lot of the time, it’s easy to feel drained and want to plant yourself on the couch to recover. While down-time (especially quality sleep at night) is important, adding physical activity to your week can help boost your overall energy.
Maintaining regular body movement is important for managing stress and maintaining optimal hormone levels. Exercise helps your body function optimally over all. As you’ll see in this post, even a little bit goes a long way.
When you’re completely exhausted, the last thing you want to do is lace up your shoes for a workout (nor should you- listen to your body!). But if you’re feeling that way often and you’re tired of being tired all the time, you may want to rethink the idea of regularly exercising.
Exercise is one of the most powerful tools we have for increasing our energy levels and you don’t need to do a lot to reap the benefits… plus, it’s completely, 100% free! How’s that for a powerful health tool?
In fact, a University of Georgia study found that performing 20 minutes of low intensity exercise could decrease fatigue by up to 65%!
A physical activity as simple as walking, yoga or a leisurely bike ride (for only 20 minutes!) can do so much more for your energy than a cup of coffee or an energy drink ever could. Not to mention the downsides of a temporary caffeine boost.
So how does exercise actually increase energy?
There’s a lot of amazing things going on in your body during a workout session. When you exercise, your body increases its production of serotonin, endorphins and dopamine -- all of which are powerful mood boosters.
Dopamine, in particular, has been found to make us feel more alert and motivated. This is exactly why it pays to take that 20-minute walk during your lunch break instead of scrolling through your social feeds.
In addition to releasing these helpful neurotransmitters, exercise has been found to help us sleep better.
When your body gets the rest it needs on a regular basis, you’ll have the energy to get through your busy day -- and maybe even some to spare!
But, can exercise actually works against you?
While a regular sweat session is typically a great thing for your body, there are some circumstances where a workout can actually affect your energy in a negative way.
Working out at night can make it very difficult to wind down and get a restful sleep. Experts recommend avoiding vigorous exercise up to 3 hours before bedtime.
For those with especially hectic schedules, this can be a challenge since it may be the only time of day they can fit in a workout.
However, consider moving your workout to the morning to increase your energy for the whole day. But if you simply can’t, try sticking to a lower intensity nighttime exercise routine so you can wind down when it’s time to sleep. A long walk, or a grounding yoga routine can be just the thing to activate your muscles, without increasing your heart rate significantly.
Too much of a good thing
Yes, you can get too much of a good thing. Exercising too much can actually have the opposite effect on your energy levels.
One study looked at the effects of over-exercising. Participants were put through a rigorous physical training regime for 10 days followed by 5 days of active recovery.
Not only did participants notice a decrease in performance, they also complained of extreme fatigue and difficulty sleeping.
So how much exercise is enough?
It is recommended by many healthy lifestyle experts to get approximately 150 minutes of moderate-vigorous exercise each week to maintain good health. You’ll know you’re getting the right amount of exercise if you notice your energy levels are increasing (pay attention!)
If, after up-leveling your exercise efforts you’re (still) feeling lethargic or are having difficulty sleeping, there’s a good chance you may be overtraining.
One last point about Exercise & Energy -- the food you eat also plays a huge role in your energy levels! In addition to getting regular exercise, be sure to fuel your body with whole foods throughout the day to keep your energy levels up and maintained. See my blog post on what to eat before and after exercise.
Energizing Power Balls
This Energizing Power Ball recipe is a great way to fuel your body pre-workout or to give you a mid-afternoon energy boost.
1 cup of rolled oats
½ cup of nut butter (use sunflower, pumpkin seed or hemp butter for a nut-free option)
¼ cup of raw/unpasteurized honey or pure maple syrup
½ cup of hemp hearts or chia seeds
Optional additions: add a handful of chopped dried fruit and/or unsweetened shredded coconut
- Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
- Roll dough into balls, approximately the size of 1 Tbsp.
- Chill and enjoy; place a few in the freezer and enjoy them frozen for a slightly different taste experience!