Fatigue Fighters: Get Moving

Studio 5 Health and Fitness Contributor Melanie Douglass highlights some ways to get moving, even when you think you can’t.

Dehydration, nutritional imbalances, lack of sleep, too much caffeine, and too much or too little food are all key contributors to daily fatigue.

Here are some easy ways to fight “fatigue of the moment”; these are things you can do right now — or right before your scheduled workout time:

1) Try doing 25 jumping jacks. It doesn’t matter how tired you think you are… get up and do just 25 jumping jacks, then reassess and see if you still feel too tired to move. Most likely (whether you care to admit it or not :), that quick burst of energy will get oxygen circulating throughout your entire body and you’ll feel better in minutes.

2) Try a bite of food. Try just a half a banana, a bite of dark chocolate, or a handful of blueberries. Fruit is absorbed quickly and has vitamins & minerals; chocolate has polyphenols that can help to increase blood flow (but this is not a reason to eat a lot of chocolate, as the saturated fat is hard on your heart and NOT a good trade-off when eaten in large amounts). The trick to this is to eat a bit of food and get moving within minutes. If you sit around your blood sugar will rise then drop and you will be back to square one.

3) Splash some cool water on your face. If this doesn’t work, try a tepid waist-high bath — it doesn’t sound fun, but you’ll definitely feel more awake after a few minutes.

4) Call somebody! Pick up the phone, call a friend or family member, and ask them to come workout with you… when they show up, you’ll get the reinforcement you need and you’ll have a good incentive to get moving.

5) Think small. When you’re tired, finding the ambition to move for 30 minutes can feel like you have to prepare to climb Mt. Everest. If that’s the case, think small — lower your expectations; it can be 5 minutes, 10 minutes, or simply saying you’ll do 30 pushups. Odds are, once you start moving, you’ll feel much better, and consequently keep moving for a longer period of time. Anything is always better than nothing when it comes to exercise.

So that’s what works for the moment, but there are also small steps you can take on a daily basis to prevent and fight fatigue over time. You don’t have to do everything perfect everyday, but keep these things in mind and try focusing on one thing per day, per week… or even per month. It’s your body, so listen up and see what works for you.

1) Eat protein and carbs together. The combination of protein and complex carbs positively affects serotonin, dopamine, norepiniphine and epinephrine levels in your brain (plus keeps blood sugars stable) so that you can feel more alert. Nice combinations include:

– 1/2 cup brown rice and 4 oz. lean meat
– 1 – 2 eggs and 1 cup fiber cereal (3 – 5 grams fiber per cup)
– 1 oz. string cheese and 1 cup fruit
– 1/2 cup canned beans and 1 whole-wheat tortilla
– 6 oz. Greek yogurt and 1 medium fruit
– 1 handful walnuts or almonds and 1 cup fresh veggies

2) Think “mini” meals. Big meals are the root of all fatigue! It always pays to eat less more often — but it’s especially helpful to do this to keep your energy levels consistent.

3) Watch the caffeine. Many people don’t realize that too much caffeine can actually be counterproductive. Everyone is different, but in general, consuming more than 300 mg of caffeine per day can cause insomnia, and create an up-and-down energy environment. If you aren’t sure how much caffeine you consume, count 50 mg of caffeine per ounce of coffee, 4 mg mg of caffeine per ounce of soda, and be sure to read the labels on energy drinks as they can contain anywhere from 50 – 900 mg of caffeine per serving.

4) Check your iron intake. Lack of iron can contribute to anemia (a decrease in red blood cells and the oxygen in your blood) and causes mild to severe fatigue. Make sure your diet includes some of these iron-rich foods:

– Beans (all kinds)
– Red meat
– Iron-fortified cereals or breads
– Cooked spinach
– Pumpkin seeds
– White, long grain rice
– Poultry, halibut, salmon or tuna (red meat is 2 – 3 times higher though)

Pre-menopausal women should aim for 18 mg of iron per day. Men and post-menopausal women should strive for 8 mg/day. And due to iron absorption issues in some vegetarian diets, vegetarian men should strive for 14 mg/day and vegetarian women should aim for 33 md/day.

5) Get 7-8 hours of sleep, most nights of the week. Duh. If you don’t sleep enough, you’ll feel tired. If fatigue is getting you down, set a goal to get your zzzz’s at least 5 days in a row and see if you feel better.

6) Never ever plan to exercise during your “tired” time of day. We all have that hour (or two, or three) during the day when our energy disappears; for most women, it hits in the late-afternoon. Whatever your time of day is, don’t plan your exercise sessions in that timeframe. If you suffer from late-afternoon fatigue, set a goal to work out in the a.m., and who knows, you might actually make that late-afternoon tiredness disappear!

7) Drink your water. Dehydration is a common cause of fatigue. Most adults need about 96 ounces of water per day. But remember, foods have water and meet about 30% of our water need; after taking that into consideration, it still works out to us needing at least (8) 8-ounce glasses of water per day.

For more info, contact: melaniedouglass@gmail.com

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