Too tired to even get up off the couch? The truth is, besides the weight loss and fitness benefits, following a regular exercise regime has been proven to give you more energy! Yep, it’s the one benefit of exercise no one talks about and it’s seriously addictive! Once you’re over the initial hurdle of making exercise a regular part of your daily routine, you’ll wonder how you ever went without it. Here’s how to get going again…
The link between exercise and increased energy
The link between exercise and improved energy levels is very real. Not just a line trotted out by overenthusiastic fitness instructors, moving more really will boost your jack-in-a-box factor. A University of Georgia study found that participants who did 20 minutes of low-intensity exercise three times a week not only increased their energy by 20%, but also decreased their fatigue by 65%.
The reasons for this are varied. Exercise increases the number of mitochondria – tiny organisms that produce energy in the body – in order to provide you with the energy that you need for your activity. So the more you move, the more energy you have, and the more you’ll be inclined to move.
Improved oxygen delivery and nutrient-rich blood flow to muscle tissue also means you gain more energy, as does a more efficient cardiovascular system, and let’s not forget about the mood-boosting, energising release of neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. Studies have found noticeable increases of these chemicals in the brains of animals who regularly exercise. So now you know – runner’s high is no myth. The trick is to time exercise for when you’re most alert
Why daily activity counts
It doesn’t take much movement to help you feel more alert. Subtle tweaks to your routine can make all the difference
From the moment you open your eyes, pay attention to posture. A study led by San Francisco State University found that walking with a slouched-over body posture can lead to decreased energy. So, when standing or walking, put your shoulders back, chest out, and chin up, and aim to stay upright from the waist.
Early afternoon A UK-based study has pinpointed 2.15pm as the most common time for an energy slump. Our body clocks signalling the time for a melatonin release between 1pm and 3pm are to blame. But, heading out for a 10-minute walk is enough to get blood pumping and oxygen moving more efficiently around the body.
Try mini exercises at work
Don’t knock deskercise! Arm and ankle circles, standing up and sitting down a few times, and bending from the waist to the floor all add up. Simple stretching and mobility exercises really help to get blood circulation going and ease muscle tension.
Stretch your chest muscles out by clasping your hands together behind your back and extending your arms back behind you, just below shoulder height.
Bend forward from the waist, keeping a straight back, to stretch hamstrings and the lower back. At the same time, turn head from side to side to stretch out your neck. Hold stretches for 15 to 30 seconds.
Also think ‘couchercise’
Watching TV or being glued to your tablet can make you feel sluggish. Every so often, haul yourself off the couch, take a walk around the room, and then kill two birds with one stone by including a few couch squats and triceps dips.
Tips and tricks for maximum energy
Green tea is a good choice for a pre-workout energy boost, as not only does its caffeine help you go further for longer, it also contains plant flavonoids called catechins, which may accelerate the fat-burning effects of your workout.
Hydration is a key part of staying on top of your game before and after exercise sessions. Rehydrating continuously is way better than waiting until dehydration’s set in. A good rule of thumb is to check if your urine is light yellow – this is a sign you’re adequately hydrated.
Combining protein and carbs is the best way to use food to maximise energy levels. A poached egg on wholewheat toast, or yoghurt with a little bran cereal should provide you with sufficient exercise fuel, without leaving you with a blood-sugar crash.
Consider the timing
Timing is key when it comes to exercise and energy. Even the easiest of workouts will prove difficult after a desk-bound day. The trick is to time exercise for when you’re at your most alert – earlier in the morning.
The right way of working out
When it comes to day-to-day energy boosting, low-to-moderate intensity wins hands down. Longer, higher-intensity workouts may leave you feeling energised initially, but there’s a good chance you’ll feel depleted later on if you’re not used to it. A lower-intensity workout is less likely to have that effect.
Walking can be your first port of call when it comes to energy boosting. A briskness of pace will help transport oxygen to your muscles more efficiently and get your i heart pumping. Aim for at least 15 minutes to see results – a California State University study found that the more people walked each day, the more energetic they felt, and the better their mood.
Vary your walking workout by including a few flights of stairs, or hills. Joining an exercise group can also keep you motivated. Sign up at a Run/Walk For Life club. Their programme is suitable for all ages, and you’ll join a group that suits your fitness level, so you won’t battle to keep u p, or have to wait on others who might be slower than you. Visit www.rwfl.co.za
Water-based exercise classes
Such as aqua aerobics are not only low-impact and therefore easier on your joints, but they also leave you feeling energised by triggering a release of endorphins – natural mood-enhancing chemicals in the body.
Slower paced exercise
These include yoga, Pilates and t’ai chi can boost circulation and the nervous system without all the energy-depleting effects of tougher exercise. Many people find that the practice of deep breathing improves their mental alertness, too. The sun salutation and warrior yoga sequences are both dynamic series of movements that will stretch you out and help ease tension, while still providing you with a gentle jolt of energy.