The big get-together is tonight, but you are exhausted. You already RSVP’d so you make yourself go, and before you know it you are the last one to leave. If you have had the “I’m-so-glad-I-went” experience, then you know that our body has reserves that are just waiting to be activated.
This happens with exercise. Exercise may be last thing you want to do — or you think can do — but even a brief burst of activity can improve energy and decrease fatigue. Low and moderate intensity exercise both have positive short and long-term effects.
Many of us are tired because we lead busy lives, keep irregular schedules, and get poor quality sleep. On top of this, bodies that are fighting disease or unusual stresses can experience overwhelming fatigue. No matter what the cause, exercise will decrease fatigue. Your body seems to be telling you to rest, but the choice to move will lead to a huge victory. This is true even if you have cancer, fibromyalgia, depression, multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disorder, or another condition which causes fatigue.
How does exercise help? Exercise increases blood flow to all parts of our bodies, enhances cell energy production, releases chemicals to boost mood, and improves sleep. You can see these changes starting on the first day. With regular exercise, strength and cardiovascular gains also allow you accomplish more while using less of your energy capacity. For example, if lifting 10 pounds from the floor takes all your effort, then there is no reserve left for other activities. However, if you build strength and are able to lift 20 pounds, doing laundry may no longer wipe you out. Functional strength gains and increased energy lead to big lifestyle changes!
You can battle fatigue today! A low-intensity exercise program is the perfect place to start, and is well established to combat fatigue. Many circumstances are out of your control, but you can choose to take action.
Begin exercise slowly, make realistic goals, and reward yourself when you meet them. Even short episodes of activity count, so incorporate small activities into your day. Schedule exercise so you do not have to think about whether you want to do it or not. Ask your friend if they would want to join you on a walk or in a tai chi or yoga class.
I would love to hear about your “I’m-so-glad-I-went” exercise experience! Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me your story!
Tiffany Salido is a doctor of physical therapy and owner of The Movement Joint® , a therapeutic fitness studio offering safe exercise classes individualized for people with balance problems, joint and muscle pain, weakness, fatigue, and mobility difficulties. Find out more at themovementjoint.com.