Increase Your Energy by Exercising

Posted: Oct 05, 2016 6:00 AM
When you're on a winning streak, you stick with it. That's why I've written so much about exercise. When it comes to your health, it's a champion. Just look at the newsletters I've sent in the past:
Have I covered all of the ways exercise is a health Hall of Famer? No. There's more.

Re-braining a no-brainer

We all know that exercise makes you tired. Doesn't it? Sure, you feel tired immediately after vigorous exercise. That's the no-brainer part. But what about the post-tired time? And what if your exercise is light or moderate, not "vigorous?" What happens after your body finishes processing the demands you've put on it?

Energy in, more energy out

New research tells us that when you put X amount of energy into exercise, you get XX energy back in return. It's like exercise repays the energy you've put in—with interest. A 2008 study published in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics found that inactive people who felt chronically fatigued experienced:
  • A 20 percent increase in energy
  • Up to a 65 percent reduction in fatigue
All it took was regular, low-intensity exercise. (I'll define that later.) The great thing is, the energy boost happened for just about everyone, no matter what their health status was. Healthy adults improved. Cancer patients improved. Patients with diabetes and heart disease improved. Better still, folks who were on Big Pharma stimulants, including for ADHD and narcolepsy, improved more with exercise than when they were using the drugs. There's so much to love here. Another study, published in
Psychological Bulletin, analyzed 70 different studies on exercise and fatigue. Findings? "More than 90 percent of the studies showed the same thing: Sedentary people who completed a regular exercise program reported improved fatigue compared to groups that did not exercise," says researcher Patrick O'Connor. "It's a very consistent effect."

What is "exercise?"

First, let's get something straight. We never say "working out." Who likes "working?" I tell my patients to let their inner kid out—the kid who ran and jumped and tumbled for the sheer physical fun of it. That's not "working." It's playing. And all animals, including us, love doing it—because it's good for us! It's healthy! Definition? For our purposes, exercise is nothing more than moving more than you usually do. If you're active, be more active. Walk faster or farther than usual. That's exercise. If you're sedentary, exercise is getting off the couch, getting out of the office chair, and just walking—around the house, the block, the office—for as little as five minutes. While you're walking, I highly recommend doing something goofy. Wave your arms, beat your chest like Tarzan, break out some of those old dance moves (but not break dancing), or make like Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp. Be playful! It'll not only bring on a smile—which we all know is very good medicine. It will also work your upper body. Better than letting your arms just hang down there.

How exercise delivers the best return on investment ever

So how does expending energy give you more energy? It seems counterintuitive—unless you know your cells. Your mitochondria, in particular. They're the specialized structures within your cells that turn nutrients into energy. When you call on them for the extra energy you need to exercise, they increase in number to meet the demand. So you're not "using up" energy, you're actually increasing your body's ability to provide it.

Get moving

If you're ready to put this news to good use by walking or jogging, here's what I recommend, after clearing it with your doctor, of course. Set aside a regular time to do it. Let nothing interfere—not shopping, not errands, nothing. With my tough-love doctor face on— this is a serious investment in the good health you deserve. If you can't commit and continue, just forget it. Wear comfortable shoes. Research shows that fancy, high-tech shoes are no better than comfortable walking shoes—and sometimes worse—when it comes to avoiding injury. Start slow, say, five minutes of walking, or light to moderate jogging, three days a week. Work your way up to 25 minutes a day, three days a week. Research shows that additional minutes beyond that won't give you additional benefits. Choose what you most enjoy. This is supremely important. It's "play time," remember? That means if walking and jogging aren’t for you, try yoga, Pilates, tai chi, qi gong, or water aerobics, anything that gets you moving more. Same dedicated time. Same slow start and steady build up to 25 minutes, three days a week. You won't believe what a difference getting moving will make.