It may sound strange, but exercise gives you more energy via a range of mechanisms.
Ever heard of the term “Use it or lose it”? That’s how your body works.
So, if you’ve been feeling sluggish lately, this article is for you. In this post, we’ll walk through all the different ways exercise impacts your energy levels as well as how it improves your mood.
The Link Between Exercise and Energy Levels
According to a study by the University of Georgia, you don’t have to do a lot of high-intensity workouts to increase energy levels. The study found that doing only 20 minutes of low-intensity exercises can boost your energy by a whopping 65%!
In other words, taking a brisk walk or doing some yoga exercises for 20 minutes can leave you feeling more energized and invigorated than a cup of coffee ever could.
I’ve seen this in the people I’ve trained in the gym over the years. Everyone has a big jolt of energy when they switch over from living a sedentary life to putting in a little exercise. It doesn’t take much movement to get this boost and it is totally worth it.
The science behind this phenomenon is that when you engage in any type of exercise, your body produces more of what’s known as ‘feel-good’ hormones. These mood-boosting chemicals are serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine.
Studies show that when you’re constantly getting doses of these hormones, you feel motivated and driven. They also work to make us feel alert and focused, which are directly related to energy levels.
This is probably why exercising in the morning makes people feel so good.
When you exercise, your body releases other hormones, mainly epinephrine and norepinephrine. You may be surprised to know that these are two types of stress hormones.
Yet, they’re the good kind of stress that perks us up and makes us alert and focused. They’re also responsible for our fight-or-flight response, which may account for why they make us feel so energized.
Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Exercise?
Definitely! Exercising too much can actually have the opposite effect on energy levels.
One study documented the effects of overtraining by putting participants through a rigorous physical training program for 10 days straight without any recovery days.
At the end of those 10 days, every participant had noticed a drop in their performance. Not only that, but they also complained of difficulty sleeping and feeling extreme fatigue.
So, how much is enough?
Physical trainers and medical experts recommend getting 150 minutes of moderately intense workouts spread over the week. That should be enough to increase your energy levels and maintain good health.
But the most important thing is for you to listen to your body. If you’re starting to feel bad (other than a little soreness), then take it easy for a few days.
5 Ways Moderate Exercise Can Boost Energy Levels
Tired of feeling tired? Then, it’s time to add more exercise time to your week.
Here are five ways regular exercise can increase your energy.
Enhances Heart Health
Regular exercise helps strengthen the cardiovascular system and improves your body’s ability to circulate oxygen. Once you get you heart pumping and your lungs bringing in extra oxygen, you’ll likely feel some of that sluggishness go away. You’ll feel more awake.
This happens because there’s more blood flow carrying sufficient amounts of oxygen and nutrients to muscle tissue.
Over time, you’ll notice that the daily tasks that used to tire you out have become easier and less draining.
Increases Endorphin Levels
Endorphins are part of those ‘feel-good’ hormones I mentioned earlier. Yet, these are more special than the rest when it comes to how much energy you have after exercising.
The reason is that your body releases endorphins when you challenge yourself with activities like weight training or moderate-intensity aerobic exercises.
Yet, that’s not the exciting part! Endorphins have the unique ability to remain in your system for up to an hour after working out. This is what health experts refer to as ‘runner’s high.’
So, this post-exercise miracle hormone elevates your mood for longer, relieves pain, and enhances your overall well-being. Then, if that wasn’t enough, it also increases energy levels, which is why you don’t feel that post-workout slump until hours later.
Improves Cognitive Performance
A good workout won’t just energize you physically but mentally as well. Your nervous system becomes more active when you exercise.
It’s simple, you’re sending messages to your muscles to fire and receiving information about balance, tension, and all sorts of other data. This happens when you are sitting on the couch, but at a MUCH lower level.
One recent study shows that three workout sessions of moderate intensity weekly over the course of 12 weeks can boost cognitive performance. It can also improve memory and focus.
In another study of adults 65 years and older, participants engaged in moderate aerobic exercise three times a week for 24 continuous weeks. The study showed significant improvements in cognitive functions, including focus, concentration, and memory.
Improves Sleep Quality
When you engage in any physical activity, your brain releases feel-good hormones. Research shows that these neurotransmitters don’t just lift our moods, they also help us sleep better.
Because they reduce stress and release pent-up energy. Plus, exercise helps reset your circadian clock so that you’re more energized and productive.
Thus, by providing your body with the rest it needs, you’ll wake up ready to take on the day. You’ll also have a nice bit of energy left over from the previous day to help you get through the next one without falling apart at the seams.
Reduces Stress and Anxiety
Do any type of exercise that significantly raises your heart rate for no less than 30 minutes 3–4 times a week, and you’ll quickly start to feel a mild antidepressant effect. One reason why this happens is that physical exercise inhibits the release of the stress hormone cortisol.
The good news is that low-intensity exercises, like recreational cycling, walking, and pilates also have similar benefits on our mood. For example, research shows that yoga may lower anxiety and depression.
It is literally like magic and takes so little effort compared to the gains. You won’t believe it until you try it. Being a personal trainer, I’ve gotten to see the benefits of this in many of my clients firsthand.
Workouts that Have the Most Impact on Energy Levels
Does your heart pound just from walking up a short flight of stairs? Do you often suffer from throbbing headaches from sitting at your desk all day?
Then, try these exercises. Obviously, pay attention to how you feel, see a doctor beforehand if you feel you need to, and generally be safe.
Low-intensity exercises increase energy levels and reduce fatigue over the long term. They’re also ideal for a range of age groups because they don’t put as much pressure on the joints.
Examples of low-intensity exercises are:
- Light cycling
- Walking at a casual pace
- Tai chi
- Step aerobics
High-Intensity Aerobic Exercises
Any type of activity that improves circulation and gets your blood pumping is sure to increase your energy and make you feel more alive.
Here are a few ideas to get you inspired:
- Spinning class
- Using an elliptical trainer
- Tabata interval training
- Jump roping
- Cross-country skiing
Exercises that improve your balance are great for developing a sense of awareness and communication with your body.
Balance exercises include:
- Tree pose
- Dead bug
- Reverse lunges
- Single-leg deadlift
- Single knee lift
- Heel lifts
- Toe raises
- Single-leg squat
- Lunge and twist
Knowing how exercise impacts energy levels can come in handy the next time you hit that mid-day slump. Contrary to popular belief, the more energy you use when exercising, the more energy you’ll have. It just needs a bit of persistence and self-discipline.
The best part is that almost any exercise can boost your energy and make you feel more alert. Just remember to choose activities you enjoy. This way, you’ll feel energized and look terrific all while having a marvelous time!