How Exercise Can Fight Fatigue and Increase Your Energy

Exercise for Good Health, Energy, and Longevity

Senior women running outdoors
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Everyone I talk to seems tired these days. To many people, the idea of exercising when tired feels counterintuitive. They feel like just don't have the energy. Depending on their health history, that may be true. But for others, I have some good news. A recent study on exercise and feelings of energy has showed that low levels of exercise can actually boost energy levels by 20% and decrease fatigue by 65%.

Low-Intensity Exercise Brings More Energy

In the 2008 study, 36 people who were not regular exercisers and lived a primarily sedentary lifestyle who reported being tired all the time were divided into three groups. One group did 20 minutes of moderate exercise three times a week for six weeks, the second group did low-intensity exercise for the same amount of time, and the third group did not exercise any more than before serving as the control group. Both of the exercise groups had a 20% increase in energy levels after six weeks. The extra good news was that the researchers found the low-intensity group actually reported a higher reduction in fatigue than the group working out at a moderate level. In fact, the low-intensity group reported a 65% drop in fatigue compared to the 49% drop reported in the moderate group while the no-exercise group just stayed the same.

What the Medical Science Community Says

Exercise and/or active lifestyle has been proven to carry numerous mental and physical health benefits from lower cholesterol to lower blood pressure to stronger bones.

While very few studies have been done to quantify the impact of exercise and perceived energy levels, several have confirmed the positive effect of exercise on fatigue and energy levels - even in people suffering from fatigue as a result of chronic illness like heart disease. Some studies have focused on the physical energy boost from exercise, which counts on factors like increased blood flow carrying nutrients and oxygen to muscles to produce energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate more effectively.

Others have studied exercise's impact on mood and perceived energy or fatigue. Despite the differences in area of focus, the medical community seems to agree that exercise can, in fact, reduce fatigue and increase energy with more health benefits than a cup of coffee or energy drink.

How to Exercise for Energy

Based on the 36 person study, getting out for just 20 minutes three times a week can raise your energy level. If you're not already an avid exerciser, try walking or really anything that just gets you moving. In the study, the low-intensity group rode an exercise bike for 20 minutes at the same level of intensity as a leisurely stroll.

Exercise More for Overall Better Health

Keep in mind, however, that this study only looks at the fatigue and energy creation benefits of exercise. Other studies suggest that more intense exercising could have important longevity and health benefits. If you are not yet in the habit of exercising, start by focusing on a low-intensity workout for the first 6 weeks and check out these tips for learning to love exercise.

That should give you the energy you need to rev things up a notch.


Puetz, T.W. ; Flowers, S.S.; O'Connor, P.J. A Randomized Controlled Trial of the Effect of Aerobic Exercise Training on Feelings of Energy and Fatigue in Sedentary Young Adults with Persistent Fatigue. Psychother Psychosom 2008;77:167-174.

Puetz, Timothy W., Patrick J. O'Connor, and Rod K. Dishman. "Effects of Chronic Exercise on Feelings of Energy and Fatigue: A Quantitative Synthesis." Psychological Bulletin 132.6 (2006): 866-76.

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