When you’re completely exhausted, the last thing you want to do is lace up your shoes for a workout. But if 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.
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.
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.
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.
If, after upleveling 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.
Check out this recipe for Energizing Power Balls on my "Eating for Wellness" Blog
Think living a long and healthy life well into your nineties or even one hundred years old is only for those lucky few who hit the genetic lottery? Think again.
Lifestyle factors, i.e. the things you do everyday over the long-term – can add up to increase the number of quality years in your lifespan.
Look no further than the people of Blue Zones for proof of how powerful everyday habits are when it comes to staying healthy for the long haul.
The Blue Zones are regions around the world where people have very low rates of chronic disease and live longer compared to other populations.
They are located in regions of Greece, Sardinia, Costa Rica, Japan, and California, where a large number of Seventh Day Adventists reside.
Because these communities are home to the greatest number of people who live healthfully into their nineties and even hundreds, researchers have studied them to determine just how they age so healthfully.
Do you have to live in an actual Blue Zone to guarantee longevity? Nope! You can adopt some of the well-studied lifestyle traits of these folks to promote health and longevity right where you are.
Here’s the top 5 life “hacks” of the world’s longest living people:
Eat a Plant-rich Diet
Blue Zone residents eat a mostly plant-based diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains. Animal foods aren’t avoided – they eat smaller portions of meat a handful of times per month.
You don’t have to become a strict vegetarian or vegan, but it’s important to eat a variety of plant foods daily - they contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, and powerful antioxidants that help decrease inflammation and protect you from chronic disease, like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
A simple rule of thumb is to fill half your plate with vegetables at every meal. Yep, every meal!
Include Healthy Fats
Eat heart healthy unsaturated and omega-3 fats in the form of olive oil, nuts, and fish.
Getting enough omega-3’s helps decrease disease-causing inflammation and keeps your heart and brain healthy.
Eating enough fat also keeps you feeling fuller longer, which can help prevent overeating that leads to weight gain - bonus!
Stop Eating Before You Feel 100% Full
Avoid the clean plate club. Eating slowly chewing your food thoroughly gives your brain and stomach time to register that it’s had enough to eat.
Blue Zone communities avoid overeating and eating beyond feelings of fullness, which again, can help prevent weight gain.
Drink Red Wine
Enjoying a glass of red wine a day increases your antioxidant intake, which is thought to decrease inflammation and help prevent heart disease.
Of course, moderation is key. Four ounces of wine is considered a glass and drinking more than that is associated with negative health effects.
Move Your Body Throughout the Day
Have you heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking”? As in, it’s not good for your health to sit for extended periods of time.
Lack of physical activity and prolonged sitting is linked to weight gain, obesity, and increased mortality. Be sure to look for opportunities to add movement into your regular routines.
You might try:
The world’s longest living people live active lives that include daily physical activities, like gardening, walking, and manual tasks.
Mediterranean Bean Salad
1. Combine beans, cucumber, pepper, onion, tomatoes, and olives in a large bowl.
2. In a small bowl or sealed jar with a lid, whisk or shake together olive oil, vinegar, garlic, oregano, and salt and pepper.
3. Toss salad with dressing and enjoy at room temperature or refrigerate unused portions.
Power 9: Reverse Engineering Longevity
Why People in “Blue Zones” Live Longer Than the Rest of the World
13 Habits Linked to a Long Life (Backed by Science)
In today’s world, we are constantly on the go, a steady state “busy-ness” is the norm, and we’re always running from one responsibility to the next - literally! So, it’s no wonder that physical fatigue is such a common complaint.
The good news is that there are some really simple (and natural) ways to increase your energy so you can keep up with your busy life.
Get off the blood sugar roller coaster One of the simplest ways we can boost our energy is to stabilize blood sugar. When we don’t eat enough food throughout the day or when we eat foods that are higher in sugar, our energy levels bottom out.
You can balance your blood sugar, and boost your energy naturally by:
You like to move it, move it! When you’re tired, the last thing you want to do is exercise. However, as hard as it can be to get your butt off the couch, it’s one of the best things you can do to fight fatigue.
And, it turns out that you don’t even have to commit to a long workout!
A California State University study concluded that even a brisk 10-minute walk can increase your energy for up to 2 hours.
So when you feel that afternoon slump coming on, skip the coffee and lace up your running shoes instead.
Up your sleep game It may seem obvious that lack of sleep causes fatigue. However did you know that the quality of your sleep can have an even bigger impact on your daily energy? Even slight disturbances in our sleep can affect how rested we feel the next day.
Here are a couple of tips for a more restful sleep:
Drink up! Before you reach for that coffee or energy drink to perk you up, consider switching to plain old water. While caffeine is usually the first choice for busting out of an energy slump, it can be dehydrating.
And then there’s dehydration. Even mild dehydration impairs our concentration, decreases our mood and zaps our energy.
How do you know if you may be dehydrated?
Check the color of your urine. If it’s the color of straw, you’re good to go. If it’s a darker yellow color, it’s time to drink up.
If you’re still craving a caffeine hit, try the Energizing Matcha Smoothie recipe below.
Matcha gives a longer lasting energy boost than coffee. It doesn’t hit you hard and then cause you to crash. Plus the recipe really is delicious!
Glycemic Index Foundation - https://www.gisymbol.com/about-glycemic-index/
California State University Long Beach, Public Affairs & Publications - https://web.csulb.edu/misc/inside/archives/vol_58_no_4/1.htm
National Sleep Foundation - https://sleepfoundation.org/press-release/what-good-quality-sleep
Time.com Health Land - http://healthland.time.com/2012/01/19/bad-mood-low-energy-there-might-be-a-simple-explanation/
Energizing Vanilla Matcha Smoothie
1 cup of unsweetened almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
1 scoop of vanilla protein powder (your choice, no added sugar)
1-2 tsp matcha green tea powder (start with less if you’re new to matcha - it packs a kick!)
½ frozen banana
Ice cubes (optional)
1 large handful of spinach or kale (optional, but recommended)
How to prepare
Combine all ingredients into a blender and blend until desired smoothness is achieved. Sip and enjoy!