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Published on May 13, 2021

How Physical Inactivity Affects Your Energy Levels

How Physical Inactivity Affects Your Energy Levels

We’ve all heard people say, “I’m too tired to exercise.” Perhaps, we also say this excuse ourselves when others ask why we don’t consistently engage in physical activities. According to The Heart Foundation, this is the number one reason given for physical inactivity.[1]

This is a paradox because we need the energy to exercise and yet, one major effect of physical inactivity is having depleted energy levels, which makes it extremely difficult to get moving in the first place. Oxygen is a key energy-producing fuel source, and lack of exercise limits oxygen supply to our brains and bodies, creating an energy slump.

So, how does physical inactivity affects our energy levels?

Low energy levels do more than just leave us feeling sluggish and unmotivated. The effects of physical inactivity set off a domino effect that topples our ability to focus, make smart decisions, manage our mood, build resilience against stress, and perform at our highest capacity—basically, all the fundamental pillars of maintaining optimal energy levels.

Left unchecked, this can lead to discontent in our own lives and create a ripple that impacts everyone around us.

There’s good news, though. You don’t have to suffer through hours at the gym, force yourself out of bed for a crack-of-dawn jog, or endure other such unpleasantries to shift this dynamic for yourself.

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Here are some of the ways the effects of physical inactivity play out in various areas of our lives and also some simple, painless activities to try that will enhance your energy levels.

1. The Relational Element

Do you ever feel drained of energy when you’re caught up in an argument with your partner or when your kid is having a meltdown? It’s like someone pulled the plug and every last drop of your life force is flushed down the tubes.

It turns out that a lack of physical activity could be a factor in this phenomenon. One study found that when people exercise, it creates a cascade of positive interactions with friends and family on the day of—as well as the day following—the activity.[2]

Better Together

These benefits are increased when we exercise with our loved ones. Next time you sense an impending family feud, take a timeout for some physical activity together. I remember many occasions when my own kids were toddlers, ditching our plans in a moment of frustration to go outside together quickly moved the day’s trajectory onto a more positive track, even if it was for just a few minutes. This still rings true today in their teen and preteen years. Though persuading them to change gears can require a bit more patience these days, it’s always well worth it!

Play a game of basketball or tennis. Bike around the block. Trek through your nearest trail or green space. Go critter spotting at a local park or in your own backyard. Not only can this tactic help diffuse a situation before it becomes volatile, but if you make it a habit, you’re also likely to notice an overall reduction in these energy-draining moments.

2. The Mental/Emotional Element

An estimated 40 million adults suffer anxiety disorders in the US alone.[3] When we are triggered by a threat, whether real or perceived, our brains pump out hormones to help us cope in what’s known as the “fight – flight – freeze” response. The aftermath can feel like a massive depletion of our energy.

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Sleep is an excellent method for recovering, but continuous anxious thoughts often make this difficult. Physical inactivity compounds this because it means we’re losing out on one of the most effective natural methods for regulating our sleeping patterns. Exercise also promotes mental clarity by effectively wiping our minds and bodies of the excess stress hormones instigated by anxiety.

Natural Regulators

It’s not only anxiety disorders that bungle our energy levels. Everyday stresses and mood fluctuations can make us feel like we’re stuck on an exhausting rollercoaster of emotion.

Physical inactivity contributes to the depletion of serotonin and dopamine—chemicals that help naturally regulate our mood and energy. Physical activity boosts these chemicals which enhances activity in the prefrontal cortex (the part of our brains responsible for higher-ordered thinking).[4] This process calms the limbic brain (our emotional headquarters), automatically shutting down energy-wasting emotional triggers.

3. The Intuitive/Spiritual Element

Exercise helps us grow our mind-body awareness while we learn to move out of our logical thought processes. The more we tune into our bodies and what they are telling us, the better we can tap into our inner knowing. We can stop using up our energy chasing after solutions or validation that comes from outside ourselves.

Our connectivity to the Universe or a higher power can be a catalyst for improving our energy levels as well. There are several approaches to enhance this through physical activity. Yoga and Tai Chi, for instance, are well-known spiritual practices used for centuries to connect mind, body, and spirit. From a Western perspective, they also help to create harmony between our needs for “achievement” energy and “restful” energy. Too much focus on either end of the spectrum can lead to burnout or depression.

A Powerful Combination

Meditation is another spiritual custom that is also a proven energy booster.[5] Unfortunately, sitting still and calming our minds can be a struggle, especially for people with anxiety issues.

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“Walking meditation” is one ritual that makes this easier while providing the powerful energy-boosting combination of both physical activity and intentional reflection. The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley describes this as a “basic method for cultivating mindfulness . . ., which involves focusing closely on the physical experience of walking, paying attention to the specific components of each step.”[6]

Hiking in nature also counteracts physical inactivity while helping us reconnect with our spirituality by calling our attention to the wonders of the world beyond ourselves. Awe-inspiring experiences contribute to positive changes in mood, attitude, and behavior. This enhances our energy levels by freeing up our mental space from overthinking and negativity. We can trust in our own inner knowing and lean into the belief that the Universe always has our backs.

4. The Self-Mastery Element

How energetic do you feel when your inner critic is saying you’re “too weak,” “too old,” or “too broken” to achieve your greatest goals and live your full purpose in life? It drags you down, right?

When our brains believe these negative thoughts, it exhausts our energy levels, but fortunately, there is a simple method for counteracting these lies.

You guessed it—exercise.

Physical accomplishments change our self-perception and boost our feelings of empowerment and self-worth. The agility and flexibility gains we achieve through repetitive practice of HIIT (high-intensity interval training), martial arts, or metabolic conditioning sessions, for example, create neural patterns in our brains. This carries over and rewires our mind-body for grit, strength, coordination, and resilience in all areas of our lives. What could feel more energizing than knowing you are powerful and capable of overcoming any challenge that comes your way?

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Express Yourself

Our energy levels can also be improved through self-expressive activities (e.g., dance) by helping us unpack a mess of emotions that may be bogging us down. Reaping the rewards of physical activity doesn’t require us to be focused on appearance or weight. Just find something you enjoy and that makes you feel good to move your body, whether it’s a salsa class or a favorite sport, Pilates or Zumba, or just a stroll through the neighborhood.

We don’t have to jump in with the go-getter approach we tend to take with most endeavors either. We don’t even need to be what we would consider athletic, artistic, or dramatic. All that’s required is to take one step forward with a focus on personal progress. Remove the expectations, self-judgment, and comparisons, and watch yourself bloom.

5. Energy Beyond Exercise

Globally, one in four adults does not meet recommended levels of physical activity, according to WHO.[7] While it is important to understand the ramifications that inadequate exercise can have on our health and longevity, this is just one part of the equation. There is far more at stake here.

Modern living enables us to achieve most of our daily needs with the least amount of physical effort possible. Not only do we not exercise enough, but we also rarely move our bodies at all—except from couch to fridge or from the doorstep to the car.

Physical inactivity robs us of powerful elements that enrich our lives—deeper connections with ourselves, our loved ones, our inner peace, and the vastness of the Universe around us. Our ability to feel fulfilled and successful in life hinges on the link between movement and vitality. Simply put, physical inactivity dwindles our energy at every level.

Here is a breakdown to help you fit it into your schedule with ease: On each of 5 days per week, do 15 minutes of vigorous exercise (HIIT, jogging, metabolic conditioning, or fast swimming or biking) or 30 minutes of moderate exercise (brisk walking, dancing, hiking, tennis, or water aerobics). And remember, any form of movement is better than none.

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More About the Importance of Physical Activity

Featured photo credit: Adrian Swancar via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] The Heart Foundation: The Top 10 Excuses for Not Exercising
[2] Science Direct: The cascade of positive events: Does exercise on a given day increase the frequency of additional positive events?
[3] Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Facts and Statistics
[4] American Psychological Association: Working out boosts brain health
[5] NCBI: Meditation: Process and Effects
[6] Greater Good Science Center: Walking Meditation Practice
[7] World Health Organization: Physical activity fact sheet

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Leah Borski

Certified NeuroHealth Coach, specializing in Stress Management and Integrative Wellness Lifestyle for Work-Life Balance

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Published on June 24, 2021

7 Ways Regular Exercise Boosts Your Mood And Energy

7 Ways Regular Exercise Boosts Your Mood And Energy

Have you ever woke up tired, under the weather, feeling heavy, or feeling off? Well, your mood and energy levels are most likely to blame. Did you know that the core of your body is made up of pure energy? That’s right, the core of your being—like all things in the universe—is 100% energy. It’s downright important, therefore, to prioritize your energy levels, as it regulates all other functions in your body, including your mood. And exercise, whether you like it or not, is the activity that will help get you there.

In this article, you’re going to learn the seven ways in which regular exercise boosts your mood and energy.

You see, the norm of society nowadays is the main culprit to lower mood and energy levels. In a world where sitting for long stretches at a time has become the new disease, it may come as no surprise that you feel lethargic regularly. Having said that, if you’re ready to get exercising for a minimum of 20 minutes a day, then you’re going to find out exactly how your life can take a turn for the better.

Now, exercise doesn’t necessarily have to be uphill sprints, running a marathon, or lifting heavy weights at the gym. While all the above are effective ways of keeping healthy, studies have found that a brisk walk and engaging in regular house chores can do it for you.[1]

Whatever regularly gets you off the couch is a winning strategy. Let’s dive into the ways regular exercise boosts your mood and energy.

1. Lowers Depression

Depression is an inflammatory condition and mood disorder, which can lead to all sorts of physical problems down the road. Luckily, studies have shown that simply an hour of low-intensity exercise a week was sufficient to possibly prevent future depressive episodes.[2]

Now, one hour is the lower side of the spectrum. If you increase your intensity to a moderate-to-vigorous one, such as running, or increase the time you spend exercising, your odds of keeping depression at bay increase.

How does it alleviate depression? Well, exercise such as running is proven to be as effective as anti-depressant medications.[3]

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How so? Exercise releases “happy” brain chemicals called endorphins, which are your body’s natural equivalent of morphine. Upon exercise, the flood of endorphins suppresses pain and boosts your mood.

You may have heard the term “runner’s high” being thrown around a few times. Well, as endorphins mask all pain your mind and body may be going through, you may be left with a feeling of euphoria.

2. Improves your Sleep

Whether you’re struggling to get enough hours of sleep at night, wake up feeling unrested, or suffer from broken sleep patterns, regular exercise boosts your mood and energy alright, but it also boosts your body’s wake-sleep cycle.

As you can imagine, exercise requires substantial physical exertion by your body, more so the more strenuous you choose to go. A moderate to vigorous run or workout, therefore, can leave you pumped and energized for a couple of hours afterward as endorphins flood your system.

But as you physically exert and tire your body out, a signal is also sent to your body to repair and recharge itself through sleep. Not only can the body signal to the brain a need to sleep at night by producing melatonin, the brain chemical that induces sleep, but the regular release of stress tension through exercise also aids and supports the release of this vital hormone.[4]

In fact, in a fast-paced, technological era, regular exercise can counter the effects of melatonin suppression as a result of increased stress levels and screen time. Having said that, it’s important to keep an eye on the time at which you carry out certain exercises.

For example, If you’re going for a brisk walk or engaging in house chores and other low-intensity exercises, then the time of day is not necessarily important. However, as a rule of thumb, if you’re going to go for a run or gym workout and engage in moderate to vigorous exercise at night, the increased energy and endorphins post-exercise may work out against you.

Exercise late at night can disrupt rather than promote the release of melatonin as your body remains agitated and energized for a while afterward. Hence, try to fit in your regular exercise in the mornings for the best quality sleep at night.

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3. Improves Your Self-Esteem

How does a sustainable shift in your confidence levels sound to you? Wouldn’t it feel great to believe you’re worth and capable of handling things you never before thought you would? That’s right, engaging in regular exercise can rewire your brain’s perception of self-respect and boost your beliefs in your own capabilities.

The simple act of completing one workout or run can leave you feeling a short-term sense of pride and accomplishment. Now, as you start feeling these feelings regularly through exercise, your body and mind will quickly start to recognize this as a habit. Like all habits, the body and mind will start to change to accommodate the new changes being experienced in your life.

It may take you a couple of months until your new weekly exercise routine starts to become automatic, but stay consistent and remind yourself of the feel-good feelings you experience after every workout. Once your new habit becomes hardwired into your nervous system, you’ll quickly start to realize a positive shift in your self-esteem, which can domino into other areas of your life, and another important area of your life worth mentioning is your diet.

Generally speaking, when you feel good and great in your body and mind, you’re more likely to want to maintain those feel-good feelings and reach out for healthy food choices. Don’t worry, your body generally knows what’s best for you. Every individual responds best to different healthy food choices.

In general, the lighter you feel, the more energy you’ll radiate and the higher your overall sense of well-being. From a place of high self-esteem and self-respect, you’ll find yourself more in control of your eating habits and make choices that suit your body best.

4. Increases Daily Energy

As already mentioned, your entire human body is made up of energy. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the simple act of moving your body can do enough to move stagnant energies around to make you feel more alive. Regular exercise, however, can do way more than just move your stagnant energies.

Just to give you a short biology class, every single cell of your body is responsible for creating the energy you experience daily. This happens because each one of your cells has little structures within them called mitochondria. It’s these structures that are responsible for generating the energy for each one of your cells. They are in fact called the “powerhouse” of the cell.

Why is this important? Well, no energy, no life!

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You see, when you exercise regularly close to physical exhaustion, your body will start signaling to your cells that they need to generate more energy. This is done by signaling your cells to create more mitochondria. As more mitochondria are generated, the more oxygen your cells can absorb to accommodate your exercise routine and the more power and energy you will start to feel daily.

If you build up enough stamina with regular exercise, you can begin to feel like you can run an entire marathon!

Bonus Tip: Mitochondria feed off your food intake. So, keep an eye out for what you’re putting into your body for optimal energy levels.

5. Increased Resilience to Stress

Regular exercise doesn’t only lower the cortisol levels in your blood, but it can also increase your tolerance to the stressors in your life.

As you exercise, even at low levels, your muscles release chemicals that signal to your brain to effect some changes. These chemicals, known as myokines, not only reduce anxiety and depression, but they boost your mood and can also make your brain more resilient to stress.

This can be of great benefit to you if you get overwhelmed easily. The more you exercise, the more myokines are released into your bloodstream. As they pass through the blood-brain barrier, the more they can influence lasting structural changes in your brain for the better.

6. Better Focus and Memory

The release of endorphins in your system not only boosts your mood. Have you ever noticed how sharp you feel after a workout?

Well, regular exercise can, directly and indirectly, improve your cognitive functioning over the long term. Thanks to improved sleeping patterns and lowered stress levels in your body, your mental capabilities become sharper, increasing your attention span as well as your short-term memory.

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In a world where our attention spans are getting shorter over the years thanks to technology, exercise can be the perfect counterbalance. In fact, studies show that regular exercise can also directly encourage the production and growth of new blood vessels in the brain, boosting your thinking skills.[5]

7. Higher Consciousness

Yes, exercise can be a meditation in itself. For all of you thinking that meditation is all about mantra chanting, it’s not. It’s actually all about connecting to yourself, connecting your mind, body, and spirit. When you exercise, such as going for a run, you’re forced to focus on your breath. If you don’t, you can easily tire yourself out early and get a stitch.

Focusing on your breath is partly what meditation is all about. As you control your body’s breathing, your focus shifts off your mind and onto your body. Without knowing it, you’re engaging in mindfulness practice.

As you begin to become more aware of your breath and the movement of your body, in time, you’ll also come to experience the stillness of your mind. When your mind is still, it allows you to experience higher levels of consciousness, which is the holy grail to feeling better in mood and energy.

Higher levels of consciousness not only boost your energy but can also leave you feeling prolonged feelings of happiness, love, and joy in your life. In other words, you’ll get to feel more alive than you do right now.

Takeaway

So, what are you waiting for to get off the couch? You have so many benefits waiting for you.

No matter your age, you don’t have to start any vigorous routine immediately. Simply realizing regular exercise boosts your mood and energy and making it into a habit will allow everything else to take care of itself.

Remember, the best investment you can make in life is in yourself. So, invest in your future self today to truly come alive and feel great!

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More Exercise Tips

Featured photo credit: Chander R via unsplash.com

Reference

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