An article by exercise physiologist, Jennifer Smallridge.
Coming into the warmer months, the days are getting longer and the sun is shining stronger – so how can we ensure that our energy levels match this? Having a sense of increased vitality is within your reach, but it does require conscious, repeated exercise efforts in order to see change. Physical activity is one of life’s paradoxes – how can we be expending energy whilst moving, and feel more energised as a result?
Being fit makes life feel easier
Embarking on exercise initially feels hard. The sweat, the heart rate, the heavy breathing – it’s a stress on the system, that’s for sure! But once we get through the difficult early phase, our body rewards us.
Increasing cardiovascular fitness through aerobic exercise (walking, running, swimming, cycling – just to name a few examples) gives us an increased sense of energy through every day tasks feeling easier. Tasks such as going up stairs, running around after kids or pets, or doing the vacuuming suddenly feel less fatiguing. When we increase our cardiovascular fitness, our heart becomes more efficient at pumping blood, and our muscles become more efficient at extracting oxygen and fuels.
Another sure fire way to feel less tired is by strengthening our muscles – this can be done via bodyweight exercises, Pilates, or resistance training with weights or bands – anything that requires muscles to generate force in a repeated fashion. When our muscles are strong, we are able to pick up and carry things with ease, get up off the couch or ground in one swift motion, perhaps spending more time out in the garden or exploring in nature; wherever your interests lie!
Most research suggests that exercise programs need to last for 12 weeks or longer to see measurable differences in strength and fitness. Before deciding that you are not improving, or it’s all too hard, try and remain consistent for 12 weeks – the results might amaze you.
Exercise also starts to work straight away
If 12 weeks feels like a long time before feeling good, not to worry – plenty of benefits can also be experienced after a single bout of exercise.
One study found that a single 20 minute bout of exercise increased participants’ reported energy levels and mood immediately afterwards. It’s not sure whether these benefits are physiological – for example, through increasing blood flow to the brain, or psychological – a sense of achievement and wellbeing; but they are absolutely worth pursuing.
On the days that we exercise, research also finds that our sleep depth and duration increases. Good sleep after exercise leaves us feeling recharged and rejuvenated the next day, which hopefully means that we can get up and do it all again.
If you’ve been feeling tired or sluggish lately, exercise could serve as an excellent ‘reset’ button for your body and mind. Try a brisk 20 minute walk in nature and observe your energy levels before and after. If you have more complex health needs, an Accredited Exercise Physiologist can ensure that movement is safe and appropriate for your body.
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