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18 Common Mistakes About Exercise Pointed Out By Experts

18 Common Mistakes About Exercise Pointed Out By Experts

Fitness and exercise are more popular now than they have ever been. But with the growing popularity of (primarily) indoor workouts like weightlifting, CrossFit, Pilates, and yoga, there is growing room for doing harm to our bodies.

I recently got in touch with health and fitness experts from around the U.S. to find out what they consider some of the most common exercise mistakes. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a total fitness newbie, chances are you’re making one of them. Take a look at their solutions for help on correcting some of these fitness mistakes:

1. Poor form on simple abdominal crunches

According to Tami Peavy, owner of Practical Therapy4U, keeping your hands behind your head or straight at your side during common ab crunches places an unsafe amount of torque on your neck. This can lead to neck pain, migraines, disc bulging and shoulder pain.

Instead, Tami recommends the “Reverse Crunch.” She explains, “Lying on your back, put your hands under your lower back for support. Bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the floor. Now, lift your knees into your chest, contracting your stomach muscles as you lift. Repeat this 10 times for two sets.” It makes for an effective, low-stress alternative!

2. Static stretching before a workout

Stretching is a good thing, right? It certainly has its place, but it can also be damaging, says Pilatesology co-founder Alisa Wyatt. “Stretching is great after a workout, but if you do it when your muscles aren’t warmed up, then it gives you what I call ‘old rubber band’ muscles. This is when your muscles stretch to the point of weakness and stay that way while you work out, which reduces your strength and power, as well as sets you up for injury.”

Instead of kicking off your workout with a cold stretch, she recommends a warm up that gets your blood moving, your joints lubricated, and helps increase your flexibility all at the same time.

3. Too much running, too hard

Running is one of the most popular forms of exercise, with minimal cost and benefits that include a stronger heart, lungs, and core. But too much of a good thing is still too much.

“Because of its repetitive nature, running has the potential to cause overuse type injuries to the feet, lower extremities, legs and spine,” says Joel K. Jezequel from NY Sports Med. He recommends steady increases in distance (about 10% per week, optimally), addressing muscle strength/length imbalances, and getting sufficient rest between runs.

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4. Too much sitting

From long hours sitting in front of the computer, to driving in our cars and lounging on the couch at the end of a long day, the last thing most of us need is more time spent sitting—especially during our workouts.

“Sitting down to train the shoulders, biceps and back are traditional ways to work those muscles, but it decreases the work for the legs and the core,” explains fitness expert Keli Roberts. “Training in a standing position allows the legs and the core to play a role and is a much better and functional approach to exercise.” She also points out the strong association between extensive time spent sitting and increased mortality risk, according to research from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

5. Generating movement from the joints, rather than the muscles

One of the many downsides of poor form is placing too much pressure on the joints, rather than the muscles. This issue, according to CABARRET creatrix Nicole LaBonde, often stems from “bending and unbending at the joint, rather than thinking of lengthening or contracting (the) muscles.”  In order to correct this problem, she will often force students to perform movements in slow motion, keeping the muscles engaged and the joints stress-free.

6. Choosing the wrong workout routine

“The biggest mistake I see people make is doing things they hate,” says Jeanette DePatie, author of The Fat Chick Works Out! “Into every life comes the decision to watch Game of Thrones or do your fitness routine. If you hate your exercise routine, I guarantee, ‘winter is coming.’ I often say exercise is like sex; if you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right!”

7. Not enough intensity during workout time

It goes without saying, but the goal of most exercise routines is to burn calories and lose weight. And it turns out that most of us are doing it wrong. According to personal trainer and fitness author Clint Fuqua, “EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) is the real trick to burning off unwanted fat, increasing stamina for all activities, and being able to enjoy that extra slice of pie with no regrets.”

If you’re looking to trigger this long term post-workout burn, Fuqua recommends pushing hard for 30-40 minutes, rather than hanging around the gym for a hour or more, barely breaking a sweat.

8. Listening too much to the internet, magazines, and books

If you’ve done much research into diet and exercise trends, you’ve probably noticed that the “experts” rarely seem to agree on what’s the best way to lose weight and get healthy. While some are adamantly advising low-carb, high fat diets, others are all-in on keeping fats down and protein high.

The answer may be more simple than you think. Certified strength and conditioning coach Henry Halse says, “You will have much more success if you simply tune out all the background noise and focus on what you know works for you! My dad once gave me the diet advice ‘everything in moderation.’ His mother actually told him that. She didn’t read it in a book, magazine, or Google. It’s something that she knew instinctively. To be honest, researchers are now finding that ‘everything in moderation’ may actually be the most beneficial approach to eating.”

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9. Not rehydrating enough during/after workouts

Did you know that dehydration can have negative effects on everything from your mental sharpness to power, endurance, and much more? David Parishdirector of Biofreeze Human Performance Center, warns that dehydration “is one of the biggest contributors to stalled healing, yet it is one of the most preventable conditions out there.”

He recommends monitoring your sweat loss and making sure to rehydrate with three cups of water for every pound of water weight you lose. He also warns against alcohol, caffeine and certain supplements, all of which can contribute to dehydration.

10. Ignoring bone and joint health

While most of us focus on fitness and muscle strength as the foundation of our exercise, that might be the wrong approach. “An exercise routine that places too much stress on the muscles without caring for joint and bone health often leads to serious pain in supporting areas of the body, such as the lower back, knees and ankles,” says Dr. Steven Kozmary, owner of Kozmary Center for Pain Management.

To avoid these issues, he advises receiving proper nutrition and stretching, and avoiding exercises that place undue stress on crucial joints.

11. Thinking you need a gym membership to get in shape

Think you can’t get a good workout unless you have a pricey gym membership? You’re wrong, says Jen DeCurtins, Premier Protein Ambassador and author of Ultimate Plank Fitness. She points out that “not having access to a gym doesn’t mean you can’t strength train! There are so many workouts you can do at home with your own bodyweight or a set of dumbbells.”

These types of calisthenic workouts are easy to find and can have serious health benefits.

12. Working too hard without resting

Dayna Kurtz, owner of Fitness That Fits You, knows all too well the negative effects that come from over-working. “In a city like New York,” she says, “there is tremendous pressure to look fit. As a result, many clients are inclined to overdo their workouts–hitting the gym multiple times a day, or working the same muscle groups on consecutive days. Muscles need time to rest and repair after strength training.”

She points out that inadequate rest can drastically increase the likelihood of injury and is an essential part of a good fitness regimen.

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13. Not lengthening and stretching muscles

Another misstep that’s become all too common is ignoring the need to lengthen and extend your muscles. “What many weight lifters also don’t know is that lengthening muscles (stretching) will help build more muscle in order to build strength,” says Hope Cowgirl, owner of  inBalance Studio. “Once you become too bulky and immobile, your muscle has no where to go to grow!”

To avoid this problem, be sure to take time to stretch both during and after your workouts.

14. Set realistic goals

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably started a new diet a month before that big trip to the beach. The problem is that it’s almost impossible to get in the kind of shape you’re hoping to practically overnight. Rhodie Lorenz, a cycling instructor at Joyride Studio and Premier Protein Ambassador agrees. She advises, “Keeping in mind that fitness and nutrition are lifestyle choices that will keep you healthy, commit to exercising when you can and make it happen. You can’t lose 20 pounds in one week, and you can’t begin training for a marathon a week before.”

Instead, she recommends starting with smaller, but steady, plans to help you achieve your goals. Committing to a consistent process will bring you the results you’re after without leaving you feeling frustrated.

15. Poor preparation and distracted workouts

If you’ve been inside a gym recently, you’ve probably noticed dozens of people looking down at their smartphones. As Shane McLean, owner of Balance Guy Training, points out, this can be a serious no-no. “In the age of social media and smartphones,” he says, “gym goers are a little distracted checking their Facebook feeds and posting pics on Instagram, rather than hitting the weights. Lifting weights is not rocket science but you do need to pay attention to get the most of of your routine.”

His simple solution? “Leave the phone behind for one hour. It’s not going to kill you.” I couldn’t agree more.

16. Lack of cross-training and corrective strengthening

It’s easy to get into a groove with an exercise you like. It’s also easy for that groove to turn into a rut, and one that can cause injury and overuse.

One expert who has seen that time and time again is Joan Scrivanich, USA Track & Field Certified Coach and owner of Rise Endurance. Joan cautions, “Certain muscles naturally become stronger when we always do one sport or exercise. Strengthening the muscles that play a smaller but important role help you stay fit, healthy, and injury free. For example, runners would perform corrective exercises that target the core, including the glutes and hips.”

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17. Not enough variety in their workouts

The downsides of repeating the same workouts again and again go beyond the risk of injury alone. Certified trainer and strength coach Ian Montel counsels, “The most common mistakes I have noticed in the gym revolve around a general lack of understanding of the General Adaptation Syndrome. In short,” he continues, “this is the way in which the body adjusts to a specific stimulus. If you are not changing your workouts (through different exercises, routines, intensity, sets, reps, etc.) than you will not see any gains.”

If you want to keep making gains in both strength and fitness level, he suggests following the FITTE (Frequency, Intensity, Time, Type, Enjoyment) principle. Adjusting at least one of these aspects every 4-6 weeks will keep you making gains and avoiding injury.

18. Using too much momentum while lifting free weights

Putting up big numbers in the weight room has its benefits, to be sure. Building strength and lean muscle mass can lead to a more powerful fat-burning metabolism. But as Vivian Eisenstadt, owner and Chief Physical Therapist of Vivie Therapy, warns, if you’re not doing it right you could be doing more harm than good.

Vivian recommends, “Slow controlled movement with intention on what muscle you are working on with a stable core is your best bet for safe great results. Slow controlled ‘eccentric’ muscle contraction (e.g. the slow lowering of the barbell in a bicep curl, or lowering the straight bar down in a bench press) give you more bang for your buck and gets your muscles stronger faster.”

Fixing these fundamental exercise flaws doesn’t have to be hard. Heed the advice above and you’ll be doing your body a major favor. Which of the mistakes above have you been making?

Featured photo credit: not what it looks like/istolethetv via flickr.com

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Jimmy Winskowski

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

Feeling tired all the time?

Have you ever caught yourself nodding off when you’re watching TV, listening to someone drone on during a meeting or even driving a car?

I know I have, especially when I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive.

Feeling tired all the time may be more widespread than you think. In fact, two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week.[1]

If you’re tired of feeling tired, then I’ve got some great news for you. New research is helping us gain critical insights into the underlying causes of feeling tired all the time.

In this article, we’ll discuss the latest reasons why you’re feeling tired all the time and practical steps you can take to finally get to the bottom of your fatigue and feel rested.

What Happens When You’re Too Tired

If you sleep just two hours less than the normal eight hours, you could be as impaired as someone who has consumed up to three beers.[2] And you’ve probably experienced the impact yourself.

Here are some common examples of what happens when you’re feeling tired:[3]

  • You may have trouble focusing because memory and learning functions may be impaired within your brain.
  • You may experience mood swings and an inability to differentiate between what’s important and what’s not because your brain’s neurotransmitters are misfiring.
  • You may get dark circles under your eyes and/or your skin make look dull and lackluster in the short term and over time your skin may get wrinkles and show signs of aging because your body didn’t have time to remove toxins during sleep.
  • You may find it more difficult to exercise or to perform any type of athletic activity.
  • Your immune system may weaken causing you to pick up infections more easily.
  • You may overeat because not getting enough sleep activates the body’s endocannabinoids even when you’re not hungry.
  • Your metabolism slows down so what you eat is more likely to be stored as belly fat.

Are you saying that feeling tired can make me overweight?

Unfortunately, yes!

Feeling tired all the time can cause you to put on the pounds especially around your waist. But it is a classic chicken and egg situation, too.

Heavier people are more likely to feel fatigued during the day than lighter ones. And that’s even true for overweight people who don’t have sleep apnea (source: National Institutes of Health).

Speaking of sleep apnea, you may be wondering if that or something else is causing you to feel tired all the time.

Why Are you Feeling Tired All the Time?

Leading experts are starting to recognize that there are three primary reasons people feel tired on a regular basis: sleep deprivation, fatigue and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

Here’s a quick overview of each root cause of feeling tired all of the time:

  1. Tiredness occurs from sleep deprivation when you don’t get high-quality sleep consistently. It typically can be solved by changing your routine and getting enough deep restorative sleep.
  2. Fatigue occurs from prolonged sleeplessness which could be triggered by numerous issues such as mental health issues, long-term illness, fibromyalgia, obesity, sleep apnea or stress. It typically can be improved by changing your lifestyle and using sleep aids or treatments, if recommended by your physician.
  3. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a medical condition also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis that occurs from persistent exhaustion that doesn’t go away with sleep.

The exact cause of CFS is not known, but it may be due to problems with the immune system, a bacterial infection, a hormone imbalance or emotional trauma.

It typically involves working with a doctor to rule out other illnesses before diagnosing and treating CFS.[4]

Always consult a physician to get a personal diagnosis about why you are feeling tired, especially if it is a severe condition.

Feeling Tired vs Being Fatigued

If lack of quality sleep doesn’t seem to be the root cause for you, then it’s time to explore fatigue as the reason you are frequently feeling tired.

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Until recently, tiredness and fatigue were thought to be interchangeable. Leading experts now realize that tiredness and fatigue are different.

Tiredness is primarily about lack of sleep.

But fatigue is a perceived feeling of being tired that is much more likely to occur in people who have depression, anxiety or emotional stress and/or are overweight and physically inactive (source: Science Direct).

Symptoms of fatigue include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Low stamina
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Low motivation

These symptoms may sound similar to those of tiredness but they usually last longer and are more intense.

Unfortunately, there is no definitive reason why fatigue occurs because it can be a symptom of an emotional or physical illness. But there are still a number of steps you can take to reduce difficult symptoms by making a few simple lifestyle changes.

How Much Sleep Is Enough?

The number one reason you may feel tired is because of sleep deprivation which means you are not getting enough high-quality sleep.

Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of high-quality, uninterrupted sleep per night. If you’re sleep deprived, the amount of sleep you need increases.

So, quantity and quality do matter when it comes to sleep.

The key to quality sleep is being able to get long, uninterrupted sleep cycles throughout the night. It typically takes 90 minutes for you to reach a state of deep REM sleep where your body’s healing crew goes to work.

Ideally, you want to get at least 3 to 4 deep REM sleep cycles in per night. That’s why it’s so important to stay asleep for 7 or more hours.

Research also shows that people who think they can get by on less sleep don’t perform as well as people who get at least seven hours of sleep a night[5] So, you should definitely plan on getting seven hours of deep restorative sleep every night.

If you are not getting 7 hours of high-quality sleep regularly, then sleep deprivation is most likely reason you feel tired all the time.

And that is good news because sleep deprivation is much simpler and easier to address than the other root causes.

It’s also a good idea to rule out sleep deprivation as the reason why you are tired before moving on to the other possibilities such as fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which may require a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

4 Simple Changes to Reduce Fatigue

Personally, I’m a big believer in upgrading your lifestyle to uplift your life. I overcame chronic stress and exhaustion by making these four changes to my lifestyle:

  1. Eating healthy, home-cooked meals versus microwaving processed foods or eating out
  2. Exercising regularly
  3. Using stressbusters
  4. Creating a bedtime routine to sleep better

So, I know it is possible to change your lifestyle even when you’re working crazy hours and have lots of family responsibilities.

After I made the 4 simple changes in my lifestyle, I no longer felt exhausted all of the time.

In addition, I lost two inches off my waist and looked and felt better than ever.

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I was so excited that I wanted to help others replace stress and exhaustion with rest and well-being, too. That’s why I became a Certified Holistic Wellness Coach through the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute.

Interestingly enough, I discovered that Dr. Sears recommends a somewhat similar L.E.A.N. lifestyle:

  • L is for Lifestyle and means living healthy including getting enough sleep.
  • E is for Exercise and means getting at least 20 minutes of exercise a day ideally for six days a week.
  • A is for Attitude and means thinking positive and reducing stress whenever possible.
  • N is for Nutrition and means emphasizing a right-fat diet, not a low-fat diet.

The L.E.A.N. lifestyle is a scientifically-proven way to reduce fatigue, get to the optimal weight and to achieve overall wellness.[6]

And yes, there does seem to be an important correlation between being lean and feeling rested.

But overall based on my personal experience and Dr. Sear’s scientific proof, the key to not feeling tired all of the time does seem to be 4 simple changes to your lifestyle.

L — Living Healthy

Getting enough high-quality sleep every day is the surefire way to help you feel less fatigued, more rested and better overall.

So, whether you’re sleep deprived or potentially suffering from fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, you probably want to find a way to sleep better.

In fact, if you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body isn’t getting the time it needs to repair itself; meaning that if you are suffering from an illness, it’s far more likely to linger.

As unlikely as it sounds, though, fatigue can sometimes make it difficult to sleep. That’s why I’d recommend taking a look at your bedtime routine before you go to bed and optimize it based on sleep best practices.

Here are 3 quick and easy tips for creating a pro-sleep bedtime routine:

1. Unplug

Many of us try to unwind by watching TV or doing something on an iPhone or tablet. But tech can affect your melatonin production due to the blue light that they emit, fooling your body into thinking it’s still daytime.

So turn off all tech one hour before bed and create a tech-free zone in your bedroom.

2. Unwind

Do something to relax.

Use the time before bed to do something you find relaxing such as reading a book, listening to soothing music, meditating or taking an Epsom salt bath.

3. Get Comfortable

Ensure your bed is comfortable and your room is set up for sleep.

Make sure you room is cool. 60-68 degrees is the ideal temperature for most people to sleep.

Also, it’s ideal if your bedroom is dark and there is no noise.

Finally, make sure everything is handled (e.g., laying out tomorrow’s clothes) before you get into your nice, comfy bed.

If your mind is still active, write a to-do list to help you fall asleep faster.[7]

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Above all, be gentle with yourself and count your blessings, some sheep or whatever helps.

This article also offers practical tips to build a bedtime routine: How to Build a Good Bedtime Routine That Makes Your Morning Easier

E — Exercise

Many people know that exercise is good for them, but just can’t figure out how to fit it into their busy schedules.

That’s what happened in my case.

But when my chronic stress and exhaustion turned into systemic inflammation (which can lead to major diseases like Alzheimer’s), I realized it was time to change my lifestyle.

As part of my lifestyle upgrade, I knew I needed to move more.

My friends who exercise all gave me the same advice: find an exercise you like to do and find a specific time in your schedule when you can consistently do it.

That made sense to me.

So, I decided to swim.

I used to love to swim when I was young, but I hadn’t done it for years. The best time for me to do it was immediately after work, since I could easily get an open swim lane at my local fitness club then.

Also, swimming became a nice reason for me to leave work on time. And I got to enjoy a nice workout before eating dinner.

Swimming is a good way to get your cardio or endurance training. But, walking, running and dancing are nice alternatives.

So find an exercise you love and stick to it. Ideally, get a combination of endurance training, strength training and flexibility training in during your daily 20-minute workout.

If you haven’t exercised in a while and have a lot of stress in your life, you may want to give yoga a try because you will increase your flexibility and lower your stress.

A — Attitude

Stress may be a major reason why you aren’t feeling well all of the time. At least that was the case with me.

When I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive, I felt chronically stressed and exhausted. But there was one thing that always worked to help me feel calmer and less fatigued.

Do you want to know what that master stress-busting technique was?

Breathing.

But not just any old breathing. It was a special form of deep Yogic breathing called the “Long-Exhale Breathing” or “4-7-8 breathing” or “Pranayama” in Sanskrit).

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Here’s how you do “Long-Exhale Breathing”:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight and your hand on your tummy (so you know you are breathing deeply from your diaphragm and not shallowly from your chest)
  2. Breathe in deeply and slowly from your diaphragm with your mouth closed while you count to 4 (ideally until your stomach feels full of air)
  3. Hold your breath while you count to 7 mentally and enjoy the stillness
  4. Breathe out through your mouth with a “ha” sound while you count to 8 (or until your stomach has no more air in it)
  5. Pause after you finish your exhale while you notice the sense of wholeness and relaxation from completing one conscious, deep, long exhale breath
  6. Repeat 3 times ensuring your exhale is longer than your inhale so you relax your nervous system

This type of “long-exhale breathing” is scientifically proven to reduce stress.

When your exhale is twice as long as your inhale, it soothes your parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates the relaxation response.[8]

Plus, this is a great technique for helping you get to sleep, too.

N — Nutrition

Diet is vital for beating fatigue – after all, food is your main source of energy.

If your diet is poor, then it implies you’re not getting the nutrients you need to sustain healthy energy levels.

Eating a diet for fatigue doesn’t need to be complicated, time-consuming though.

For most people, it’s just a case of swapping a few unhealthy foods for a few healthier ones, like switching from low-fiber, processed foods to whole, high-fiber foods.

Unless your current diet is solely made up of fast food and ready meals, adjusting to a fatigue-fighting diet shouldn’t be too much of a shock to the system.

Here’re 9 simple diet swaps you can make today:

  1. Replace your morning coffee with Matcha green tea and drink only herbal tea within six hours of bedtime.
  2. Add a healthy fat or protein to your any carb you eat, especially if you eat before bed. Please note that carb-only snacks lead to blood-sugar crashes that can make you eat more and they can keep you from sleeping.
  3. Fill up with fiber especially green leafy vegetables. Strive to get at least 25g per day with at least 5 servings (a serving is the size of your fist) of green vegetables.
  4. Replace refined, processed, low-fiber pastas and grains with zucchini noodles and whole grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, oats, amaranth, millet, teff, brown rice and corn.
  5. Swap natural sweeteners for refined sugars and try to ensure you don’t get more than 25g of sugar a day if you are a woman and 30g of sugar a day if you are a man.
  6. Replace ice cream with low-sugar alternatives such as So Delicious Dairy-Free Vanilla Bean Coconut Ice Cream.
  7. Swap omega-6, partially-hydrogenated oils such as corn, palm, sunflower, safflower, cotton, canola and soybean oil for omega-3 oils such as flax, olive and nut oils.
  8. Replace high-sugar yoghurts with low-sugar, dairy-free yoghurts such as Kite Hill Plain Yoghurt with 1g sugar or Lifeway Farmer Cheese with 0g sugar.
  9. Swap your sugar-laden soda for sparkling water with a splash of low-sugar juice

Also, ensure your diet is giving you enough of the daily essential vitamins and minerals. Most of us don’t get enough Vitamin D, Vitamin B-12, Calcium, Iron and Magnesium. If you are low on any of the above vitamins and minerals, you may experience fatigue and low energy.

That’s why it’s always worth having your doctor check your levels. If you find any of them are low, then try to eat foods rich in them.

Alternatively, you might consider a high-quality multi-vitamin or specific supplement.

The Bottom Line

If you are tired of feeling tired, then there is tremendous hope.

If you are tired because you are not getting enough high-quality sleep, then the best remedy is a bedtime routine based on sleep best practices.

If you are tired because you have stress and fatigue, then the best remedy are four simple lifestyle changes including:

  • Enough High-Quality Sleep with Bedtime Routine
  • Regular Exercise You Love
  • Stress Reduction with Long-Exhale Breathing
  • Fatigue-Reducing Diet

Overall, adopting a healthier lifestyle Is the ideal remedy for feeling more rested and energized.

More Tips to Help You Rest Better

Featured photo credit: Cris Saur via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] YouGov: Two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week
[2] National Safety Council: Is Your Company Confronting Workplace Fatigue?
[3] The New York Times: Why Are We So Freaking Tired?
[4] Mayo Clinic: Chronic fatigue syndrome
[5] Mayo Clinic: Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick?
[6] Ask Dr. Sears: The L.E.A.N. Lifestyle
[7] American Psychological Association: Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
[8] Yoga International: Learning to Exhale: 2-to-1 Breathing

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