We’ve all heard that exercise helps fight fatigue and increase our energy. When we’re tired from working all day, taking care of kids and all that we have to do, it’s hard to summon the energy to get out there and do it. Believe it or not it really does work! I want to explain how it works to help motivate you next time you’re tempted to take a nap rather than lace up your tennis shoes.
Exercise increases our energy in many ways. Without getting too technical, exercise increases the mitochondria (our cells’ tiny energy producing power plants) in our cells. The more mitochondria we have, the more energy we have.
Also, exercise creates the need for oxygen. Our lungs respond by increasing consumption of oxygen and our lung capacity increases. Over time, as we continue to exercise, our aerobic capacity increases. This allows more oxygen to our brain and blood stream which helps us feel more alert, awake and energetic. Improving your lung capacity by even 15-25% provides similar energy increases to shaving ten to twenty years off your age!
Consistent exercise also makes our bodies more efficient at using our stores of fat and sugar for fuel which allows us to burn them for energy. It helps to regulate our blood sugar levels, minimizing the peaks and valleys that cause fatigue.
And let’s not forget those endorphins we hear so much about. Endorphins are chemicals, produced in your brain, that produce feelings of pain relief, joy and well-being. Exercise helps release them. This lifting of your spirits will make you feel more energized and ready to face the day.
Exercise also helps us fall into deeper, more restful sleep, increases production of numerous hormones which help increase your metabolism and give you more energy.
So what type and how much exercise will help us increase our energy level? There are three types of exercise; cardio, or aerobic exercise; strength training; and flexibility.
Cardio exercises our heart and lungs and is the main calorie burning type of exercise and energy producer. It’s rhythmic, uses large muscle groups, gets our heart pumping, and our lungs working. It promotes the circulation of oxygen through the blood. Do this type of exercise 3 – 5 days a week at a moderate intensity. A way I like to use to gauge moderate intensity is the “talk test”. You are working at an intensity where you are breathing hard, sweating a bit but you are able to talk. It’s breathless and a little uncomfortable, but you are able to do it.
Resistance exercise, or strength training, builds muscle and, in turn, strengthens our bones. This increase of muscle mass boosts our metabolism, which increases our energy. Also, muscle mass stores excess blood sugar in the form of glycogen. We lose muscle mass as we age, which means we lose some of our capacity to store glucose. Too much glucose in the blood can lead to diabetes. As you build up muscle, you decrease the amount of glucose in the blood. Muscle also burns more energy when a person is at rest than fat does, so building your muscles will help you burn more calories, maintain a healthy weight, and increase your energy reserves. Do this exercise 2 – 3 times per week on non-consecutive days.
Lastly is flexibility. This type of exercise focuses on stretching and breathing and helps us restore our energy level to enhance stamina, relieve anxiety, and reduce fatigue. It gives us a sense of peace, which then allows us to sleep, which in turn gives you energy. People who are more flexible also sustain fewer injuries. Flexibility exercises can be performed as often as you can.
So the next time you’re feeling fatigued, instead of hitting the couch, remember the benefits of consistent exercise!
Coming soon – how nutrition affects your energy and what to eat to increase your energy!