Exercise Increases Energy and Fights Fatigue

Close up of couple running together
A senior couple out for a run together. Compassionate Eye Foundation/Andrew Olne/DigitalVision/Getty Images

Exercise is a great way to increase your energy level and fight off feelings of fatigue. Just a few minutes a day of exercise can really transform how you feel and how much energy you have to put toward getting through your day.

This seems to be counter-intuitive. Doesn't exercise wear you out and make you feel fatigued? Isn't the whole point of exercise to burn calories and burn off energy? How is it possible that something that wears you out physically leaves you feeling more energetic and less fatigued?

More Exercise, More Energy, Less Fatigue

A review of 12 large-scale studies on the connection between exercise and fatigue was made. The studies took place from 1945 to 2005, and each study measured the amount of physical activity that participants were doing and how much energy or fatigue the participants experienced. All of the studies found a direct link between a reduced risk of fatigue for people who were physically active compared to those who were inactive. The study authors noted that they didn't know of any confirmed biological reason for this, but the more people exercised, the more protected they were from feelings of low energy and fatigue.

Exercise Benefits Cardiac Rehabilitation Patients - More Energy, Less Fatigue

Other research shows that even among people with chronic illness like cancer or heart disease, exercise can ward off feelings of fatigue and help people feel more energized.

One study pulled together 36 studies of cardiac rehabilitation exercise programs. There was a large effect in exercise decreasing fatigue and increasing energy. Another found that 10 to 20 weeks of exercise training was associated with more feelings of energy in people with medical conditions.

How to Exercise When You Already Feel Fatigued

The trick, of course, is exercising when you feel fatigued.

Tired people generally do not want to put on their sneakers and go for a run. The good news is that even a little bit of increased activity seems to be helpful. You don’t need to run 8 miles a day to feel more energy; a 15-minute walk can do wonders.

If you are trying to exercise for more energy, the hardest thing to do is schedule the time. Choose a consistent time that you can exercise daily (like first thing in the morning, just before lunch or when you get home from work). Make your goal to exercise at least four days a week and never go more than one day without exercising. That way, you'll never get out of the habit of exercising.

Choose an exercise you enjoy rather than one that makes you tired just thinking about it. If you love riding a bicycle but hate running, choose bicycling. If it is a slog to exercise alone on a treadmill, find a team sport you can enjoy. If you want to avoid bad weather outdoors, find a gym exercise you like or an indoor lap pool. There are many ways to get your dose of exercise to boost your energy levels.

If your feelings of fatigue come from engaging in too much exercise (overtraining) that is an honest fatigue. You will know when to say when and to cut back to a reasonable level. But if you've been sitting on the couch all day and feel tired, it is probably time to consider exercise. As always, consult with your doctor before stating an exercise program.

More on Exercise:

Make Exercise Fun
Learn to Love Exercise
Your Social Life and Exercise


Puetz TW, Beasman KM, O'Connor PJ. The effect of cardiac rehabilitation exercise programs on feelings of energy and fatigue: a meta-analysis of research from 1945 to 2005. Eur J Cardiovasc Prev Rehabil. 2006 Dec;13(6):886-93.

Puetz TW. Physical activity and feelings of energy and fatigue: epidemiological evidence. Sports Med. 2006;36(9):767-80.

O'Connor FJ, Puetz, TW."Chronic physical activity and feelings of energy and fatigue." Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2005 Feb;37(2):299-305.

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