13 Exercises That Can Fight Fatigue, According to Fitness Professionals
It might sound counter-intuitive, but exercise can actually give you more energy and less fatigue in the long run. “If you aren’t moving around, your body doesn’t need to use many resources to create energy, so energy production is low and you feel tired, fatigued, and unmotivated,” Roger Adams, Ph.D. and fitness expert said in an interview with The Cheat Sheet. “Once you start moving around, especially doing an extended period of exercise for 15 minutes or more, your body revs up its energy production to meet this increased demand.” Viola, more energy for your exercise and beyond. With that in mind, here are the top exercises you should be doing if you’re craving an energy kick.
If you’ve ever experienced “runner’s high,” you know the incredible energy-boosting benefits of this exercise. The feeling comes from your body’s release of a group of hormones called endorphins, which are known to cause a sense of euphoria. Running also helps increase energy by moving blood and oxygen throughout the body.
Not an avid runner? No biggie. The best way to start is just that: start! “Work into it slowly and opt for softer surfaces like trails, tracks, treadmills, or grass instead of pavement and cement, as the latter two can be tough on your knees, ankles, and shins,” Chris Ryan, C.S.C.S., a physical trainer, and founder of Chris Ryan Fitness, told us. “Also, don’t just think longer is always better — it’s more important to up your heart rate than go slow without breathing heavy.”
2. Low-to-moderate intensity walking
When you’re sluggish and tired, you might feel like you have to muster up the energy to head outside for a walk or hop on a treadmill, but even 10 to 15 minutes of moving can increase your body’s energy drastically. “Outside walks tend to lead to greater energy, as the changing environment may help you leave your day behind (stresses) and focus on walking,” Adams explained.
Keep your heart rate in check while walking to ensure you aren’t going to get fatigued from the exercise and negate the immediate energy boost. And, if you can’t get outside or it’s simply too hot or cold, a treadmill will work just fine.
There’s no easier or more relaxing way to muster up energy than stretching, especially if you’re trapped in an office for the majority of the day. Like walking, just 10 to 15 minutes of stretching can work wonders for your stress and energy levels.
“Start with large muscle groups first, like stretching your back and legs, and then work on smaller parts of your body like arms, neck, feet, and hands,” Adams suggested. “You don’t have to master any particular kind of stretch, just find some movements that don’t create too much discomfort, hold it for 15 to 20 seconds, and then move to the next body part.” Go through all your stretches for as long as time allows — even five minutes will increase energy levels and lead to better focus throughout the day.
Since ancient times, yoga has been a source of relaxation and energy, as well as a means of relieving stress. While it might not build significant muscle mass, like other exercises, yoga can strengthen your body and teach it to be flexible, which will yield numerous benefits. “Yoga releases a great amount of stored energy in your muscles and joints by opening up your hips and shoulders in ways you normally don’t do,” Ryan explained. It also requires you to focus, which will lead to a more relaxed state, with more restored energy.
Yoga comes in many different forms, but for beginners, a basic Hatha-style class will offer a great tutorial at a slower pace to help you work on getting comfortable with breathing and positioning work. “While hot yoga is a great workout, it’s very intense and may lead to a large loss of energy, temporarily,” Dr. Adams added.
This cardio-heavy workout involves alternating short periods of intense anaerobic exercise combined with recovery periods. “Combining any functional movement at high intensities will increase energy levels, through the movement of blood and oxygen, and release endorphins,” Ryan said. Fun tip: One of the best perks of HIIT workouts is they offer a great amount of variety, so you’ll never be bored!
“Rowing is a great workout for increasing energy levels through functional, muscle-building cardio,” Ryan said. “Another great aspect of rowing is the relatively low-impact workout it gives in relation to the intensity you can put your body under in comparison to other jarring cardio exercises like running.” No muscle is left to rest when you row either — your legs, back, core, and arms all get an amazing workout.
Boxing classes have been gaining popularity worldwide and are now considered a mainstream form of exercise. “Boxing works your anaerobic and aerobic systems, but also lets you hit things, which is a total stress reliever,” Ryan said. “Hitting a heavy bag, sparring with a partner, or simply shadow boxing with the mirror by yourself offers numerous neurological benefits.” Not a bad way to release any internal anger or angst and boost energy levels after a hard day of work or school!
There is little wonder why top athletes like Lebron James use Pilates as part of their training programs: it helps develop muscle tone and boosts energy. It’s also very similar to yoga in the sense that you’re moving large muscle groups and enhancing flexibility. “Pilates is beneficial for increasing energy levels because it promotes a feeling of physical and mental well-being,” Ryan explained. “Its focus is on strengthening and lengthening muscles without creating bulk thereby increasing core strength.”
There are thousands of Pilates studios around the world, so look for one if you want to open up your body to newfound gains in muscle tone and energy.
9. Tai Chi
The flowing aspect of Tai Chi allows for a great energy-building effect, as well as boosting flexibility, balance, strength, and coordination. “Each movement flows into the next, similar to yoga, and allows you to generate a lot of movement, which leads to greater energy production,” Adams explained.
Because Tai Chi involves movements of your entire body, you create a great need for energy. And, while there are different levels of the exercise, the low-to medium-intensity, as well as its low impact on the joints, lends itself to being an excellent energy booster.
10. Strength Training
It might seem strange to consider strength training a means of boosting energy, however it can do the trick if you do it properly. “Heavy weight training, or even powerlifting, may cause immediate fatigue, but the energy boost will likely come several hours later,” Adams said.
“If you’re seeking more instant gratification, try strength training at a low to moderate intensity, using weights that cause you to fail in the 15 to 20 repetition range.” While this may not be the optimal rep range for muscle growth or strength, it’s a good range to increase blood flow and get your energy production up. No gym? No problem: Keep a set of dumbbells in your office and crank out some quick reps on your lunch break or between meetings.
No matter your age, there’s nothing more therapeutic than being surrounded by water. After all, as babies we spend nine months developing in a watery fluid. Best of all, it can give you an energy boost. “Swimming is not only a great way to get energized, but it’s also a subtle way for a softer form of energy release from being in a watery environment, which is actually quite relaxing and energizing at the same time,” Ryan noted.
If you’ve ever ridden a bike, you know it can be quite relaxing and even energy boosting, especially when you’re outside enjoying fresh air and a scenic view. “The cardiovascular benefits of cycling improves heart and lung functioning, which leads to better energy all day long, regardless of your activities at other times of the day,” Adams aid. “Even stationary cycling provides the same benefits.”
Just be careful not to get too tired by tackling a set of hills or signing up for an intense spin class that will drain you. This may lead to too much fatigue to continue the workout and leave you stripped of the immediate energy boost your craving.
13. Exercise machines
Any type of exercise machine that challenges your cardio-respiratory system will serve as a great way to boost your energy levels. “Strengthening the condition of your heart and lungs brings more blood to your muscles, brain, and rest of your body, as well as more nutrients, which leads to greater energy all day long,” Adams explained.
Find a machine that not only meets your level of fitness and impact (if you have knee pain, look for low-impact machines like ellipticals), but also entertains you, he suggested. “You will only get energy from doing something you enjoy.” In other words, if you hate the stepper, don’t do it, as this negative energy will likely leave you feeling drained.
[Editor’s note: This story was originally published April 21, 2017]