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For anyone new to working out, to say that exercise will boost rather than drain energy seems counterintuitive. But those of us who are fit and get regular physical activity know better.
We know that fatigue comes when you aren't active, when you're sluggish because your heart starts pounding just from walking up a flight of stairs, and when you spend all day sitting at a desk.
As trainers, we can spread the message that exercise is a crucial part of battling fatigue. In addition to a good diet, plenty of quality sleep, and well-managed stress, the right kind of physical activity can increase energy and minimize fatigue throughout the day.
Yes, exercise can drain your energy, especially after a long, intense session. But regular, consistent exercise that keeps you fit and healthy will ultimately perk you up, not leave you feeling drained and tired.
It can be hard to convince new clients of this, especially when they go from being sedentary to a first workout.
That first experience is exhausting, but over time they will gain more energy. Help them understand how regular exercise actually increases energy.
Several hormones play a role in energy and are impacted by exercise and stress. In fact, there is a complex association between all three: energy, stress, and hormones. When you work out, the body releases epinephrine and norepinephrine.
These are stress hormones, but in these small amounts triggered by exercise, they mostly act to energize you. This is why, even when you feel too tired to do it, a quick walk around the block can actually perk you right up. Also, regular exercise is a good strategy for fighting stress in general. Too much stress is a side effect of daily life that leaves most of us drained and tired.
Most Americans do not get enough sleep, and this is a huge cause of fatigue and lack of energy. Regular physical activity helps improve sleep duration and quality. The more and better you sleep, the less fatigued you will be on most days.
Check out this ISSA blog post to learn how routinely lacking a good night's sleep can actually inhibit muscle growth and strength.
Regular exercise leads to good physical fitness and improved health. Exercise especially boosts cardiovascular health and fitness and improves the body's ability to circulate oxygen. This improves energy immediately, but over time you also feel less tired when in better physical condition. Normal, daily tasks are easier and less draining when you're physically fit.
You may have clients who are drained and tired a lot of the time. They complain about regular fatigue, the afternoon slump, and struggling to summon the energy to even get to the gym for their exercise program.
Anyone battling low energy can use exercise to turn it around. Of course, also encourage your clients to get enough sleep and to eat well, but these ideas for using exercise to increase energy will also help.
When energy levels are low, attempting an hour-long CrossFit session or a six-mile run may feel more like climbing Mount Everest. Sometimes what your client really needs is a low-intensity, short burst of exercise. This kind of workout can provide an immediate energy boost.
According to a study from the University of Georgia, (1) regular, low-intensity workouts can also provide long-term results in the reduction of fatigue and improvement in energy levels. Researchers worked with participants who were mostly sedentary but otherwise healthy. They were divided into three groups to do low-intensity workouts, moderate-intensity workouts, or no additional exercise.
Both exercising groups saw significant boosts in energy. The group engaged in low-intensity workouts actually saw bigger reductions in fatigue, though. This means that if you have clients new to working out, it may be smart to start them out with low-intensity exercise until they get fitter. It will be enough to boost their energy levels right away.
A great example of low-intensity exercise that can boost mood and energy while reducing stress levels and fatigue is yoga. With yoga, your client will be forced to slow down and focus on breathing and stretching.
Yoga is great for beginner clients but also those that you train regularly and who may need more recovery time to balance energy and fatigue. Add one session per week to your client's routine for a change of gears and a stress-busting workout.
A walk is also a great way to get low-intensity, energy-boosting exercise that can be done any time. Assign your tired clients this homework: take a walk outside, in a park or nature area if possible. A walk is good exercise, but there is also evidence from research that just being outside and surrounded by nature can improve energy.
A study comparing a walk with a sugary snack for boosting energy found, unsurprisingly, that the walk was more effective. (2) The food only increased tension and fatigue an hour later, while the walk increased energy for a couple of hours.
Another study investigated the effects of exercising outdoors. (3) The results showed that a walk outside—even just being outside and around plants and fresh air—boosted energy in participants. It also improved mood and reduced tiredness. A walk outside is a double whammy, providing an energy burst from exercise and from exposure to nature.
Exercise helps us battle fatigue and feel more energized in general, but too much can have the opposite effect. If you have clients who work out hard and are fatigued regularly, they could be overtraining.
Overtraining is caused by too much exercise without enough recovery time. It can also be exacerbated by diet, especially by consuming too few calories. Your clients focusing on weight loss may be more vulnerable. Some symptoms of overtraining include:
Decreases in performance, even as effort increases
Difficulty sleeping or poor-quality sleep
Reduction in appetite
More frequent injuries
Talk to your client about this if you suspect overtraining and work on adding in more recovery time. Also discuss diet and make sure they are making good food choices and are eating enough.
Learn more about what good nutrition really is so you can better help your tired clients make positive changes.
Fatigue is a common complaint among American adults. At the root of this problem are several issues: poor sleep, too much work and stress, poor diet, and inadequate exercise.
Get your clients moving more to help them battle fatigue. Exercise is a powerful tool in improving energy levels, but there is also a fine line between just right and overdoing it. Help your clients by providing information, guidance, and suggestions for how to use exercise to increase energy.
Ready to put your passion for exercise to good use? Learn more about the ISSA's Personal Training Certification to start an exciting, rewarding new career.
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University of Georgia. (2008, March 2). Low-intensity Exercise Reduces Fatigue Symptoms By 65 Percent, Study Finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080228112008.htm
hayer, R.E. (1987). Energy, Tiredness, and Tension Effects of a Sugar Snack versus Moderate Exercise. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 52(1), 119-25. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3820066
Fuegen, K., and Breitenbecher, K.H. (2018). Walking and Being Outdoors in Nature Increase Positive Affect and Energy. Ecopsychology. 10(1). Retrieved from https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/eco.2017.0036