This research shows that a leisurely walk can increase energy over a period of time. But, once one gets the momentum going – try to keep it up – one day at a time.
People who regularly complain of fatigue can increase their energy levels by 20% and decrease their fatigue by 65 percent by engaging in regular, low intensity exercise, according to a new University of Georgia study.
“Too often we believe that a quick workout will leave us worn out – especially when we are already feeling fatigued,” said researcher Tim Puetz. “However, we have shown that regular exercise can actually go a long way in increasing feelings of energy – particularly in inactive individuals.”
Professor O’Connor, co-director of the UGA Exercise Psychology Laboratory, said previous studies have shown that exercise can significantly improve energy levels and decrease fatigue. Those studies, however, primarily looked at patients with medical conditions such as cancer, heart disease and mental health problems.
In this latest study, the researchers studied volunteers who had fatigue that was persistent yet didn’t meet the criteria for a medical condition such as chronic fatigue syndrome. O’Connor said about 25 percent of the general population experiences such fatigue.
“A lot of people are overworked and not sleeping enough,” O’Connor said. “Exercise is a way for people to feel more energetic. There’s a scientific basis for it, and there are advantages to it compared to things like caffeine and energy drinks.”
The researchers recruited 36 volunteers who did not exercise regularly and had reported persistent fatigue based on a commonly used health survey. The volunteers were divided into three groups:
- The first engaged in 20 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise three times a week for six weeks;
- the second engaged in low-intensity aerobic exercise for the same time period;
- the third group did not exercise.
The low- and moderate-intensity groups had a 20 percent increase in energy levels over the control group.
Surprisingly, the low-intensity group had a greater reduction in fatigue levels than the moderate-intensity group, 65 percent compared to 49 percent, respectively.
He adds that energy and fatigue aren’t exactly opposites of each other. A student who stays up late to finish a term paper may feel fatigued, for example, but may also feel energized as she nears the end of the paper.
The volunteers in the study used exercise bikes that allowed the researchers to control their level of exertion so that low-intensity exercise was defined as 40 percent of their peak oxygen consumption and moderate-intensity exercise was defined as 75 percent of peak oxygen consumption.
For comparison, O’Connor said a leisurely, easy walk is low-intensity exercise, while a fast-paced walk with hills is moderate-intensity exercise.
“Exercise traditionally has been associated with physical health, but we are quickly learning that exercise has a more holistic effect on the human body and includes effects on psychological health,” Puetz said. “What this means is that in every workout a single step is not just a step closer to a healthier body, but also to a healthier mind.”
From a press release of the University of Georgia
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