While fatigue can be a symptom of serious health issues such as cancer and heart disease, fatigue unrelated to medical conditions is common. Engaging in exercise is usually the last thing you think of when you're already feeling tired. You might think exercising when exhausted will increase fatigue. However, when you experience general fatigue on a regular basis, exercise may be the ticket to better energy levels.
Low-Intensity Aerobic Exercises
While die-hard gym buffs may turn up their noses at low-intensity aerobic exercise, it's a great place to start if you currently lead a sedentary lifestyle. Researchers at the University of Georgia found that sedentary, otherwise healthy adults with persistent fatigue benefited greatly from low-intensity aerobics. The team found that individuals who engaged in low-intensity aerobics for at least 20 minutes three times per week for six weeks reported a 65 percent decrease in fatigue. The study is published in the March 2008 issue of the journal "Psychotherapy and Psychosomatic." Walking, swimming and bike riding are examples of low-intensity aerobic exercises.
If low-intensity exercise sounds boring, try activities that are more moderately paced. Moderate-intensity exercise requires more effort and accelerates your heart rate more than low-impact exercises. Dancing, cycling, rollerblading and doubles tennis are moderate-intensity activities. The University of Georgia study found that engaging in moderate-intensity exercise reduces fatigue by 49 percent in sedentary individuals. While the study results suggest that doing low-impact exercise has the greatest influence on reducing tiredness, you may find moderate-intensity exercise more engaging.
Exercise plays a role in your overall health. Although your life is far different from your hunter-gatherer ancestors, your body still needs physical activity. Other than increasing your energy, regular exercise helps prevent chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, obesity and high cholesterol. Aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. Start at a low-intensity if you need to and work your way up as your energy improves.
See your doctor if you suspect that your fatigue issues may be related to a health condition. The participants in the University of Georgia study experienced generalized fatigue and were not diagnosed with any diseases such as chronic fatigue syndrome. Even if you do have a fatigue-related illness, exercise may improve your energy levels. Exercise therapy reduces fatigue in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, according to a review of studies published in the 2004 Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Consult your physician before beginning a new exercise program.
- Psychotherapy and Psychosomatic: A Randomized Controlled Trial of the Effect of Aerobic Exercise Training on Feelings of Energy and Fatigue in Sedentary Young Adults with Persistent Fatigue
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do You Need?
- Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: Exercise Therapy for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
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