ILet’s talk about the F-word: fatigue. For years, Well+Good has reported on the prevalence of people feeling exhausted, analyzing the difference between just being tired and actually experiencing fatigue, and understanding the many types of fatigue you can experience. But, then there is the question of what TO DO on this subject. When you’re particularly tired and thinking about how to get more energy, is it better to take a nap or exercise?
First of all, know that many of the main factors that tend to lead to fatigue and exhaustion are probably not in the service of your health. For example, take stress, which “is extremely exhausting and can lead to fatigue,” Shelby Harris, PsyD, sleep health expert and author of The Women’s Guide to Overcoming Insomnia, previously said Well+Good. There are a number of other psychological and physiological factors that contribute to why you may feel TATT (tired all the time), including when consuming caffeine.
Whatever the reason, however, there are two common answers to the question of how to get more energy when you’re tired: through quality zzzs and physical activity. With the goal of recharging your internal battery, when it comes to determining whether to sleep or exercise for more energy, it’s less a matter of one or the other and more a matter of both, according to Todd McGrath, MD, sports medicine specialist at the Hospital for Special Surgery. But sleep should be your first priority.
Sleep is more important than exercise in helping you get more energy
Simply put: “The body doesn’t function without sleep,” says Dr. McGrath. So if you’re not getting the recommended hours of sleep for whatever phase of life you’re in, no amount of exercise will make up for it. “The benefits of exercise are significantly limited if your body isn’t rested enough to recover from exercise,” he adds.
“The benefits of exercise are significantly limited if your body is not rested enough to recover from exercise.” —Todd McGrath, MD, sports medicine specialist
So your first step towards increasing your energy levels should be to assess how much hay you hit and the quality of sleep you get. There are many wearable devices and health apps that can help you track your sleep. But if you’d rather not take tech to bed with you, there are ways to tell if you’re getting a good night’s sleep that you can use to gauge for yourself.
And if you’re sure your sleep is on point, but you still feel tired throughout the day, then exercise might be your best answer to the question of how to get more energy, adds Dr. McGrath.
But exercise can boost your energy instantly and overall
According to Dr. McGrath, the release of endorphins from physical activity helps you feel a little more awake right away. In fact, research shows that fast-paced HIIT workouts can give you the same buzz as a cup of coffee. This is something to keep in mind if you find your energy dips in the afternoon and you’re not trying to consume caffeine, especially if a power nap isn’t possible.
“Over the long term, regular exercise, especially aerobic exercise – although resistance exercise is also important – increases cellular metabolism, which helps you process and formulate energy a little better. molecular system scale, so you feel a bit more energized throughout the day,” says Dr. McGrath.
An easy way to choose between sleeping or exercising for more energy
The best way to tell if sleep or exercise is the most likely antidote to your low energy is to figure out if you’re getting enough quality zzzs every night, at least seven hours. Otherwise, it is better to favor the nap over a morning workout, for example.
If your sleep game is strong, increasing your physical activity (with an emphasis on aerobic exercise) can lead to immediate and ongoing improvements in your overall energy.
When you feel tired or overtired, it’s more of an “in the moment” problem, like an afternoon meltdown, as opposed to a chronic problem, opt for a quick four-minute burst of exercises at high intensity can wake you up the same way as a cup of coffee. Meanwhile, naps of around 20 minutes can make you more alert, focused, and productive, so they aren’t a source of sleep either.
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