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Published on May 13, 2021

How Physical Inactivity Affects Your Energy Levels

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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

More by this author

Leah Borski

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

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Published on December 15, 2021

What Supplements Should I Take Daily To Stay Healthy?

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What Supplements Should I Take Daily To Stay Healthy?

Having quality nutrition every day is key to staying healthy and fit. Many people wonder if taking supplements is needed to supply their needs. The answer to this question lies in a lot of factors. Here’s the thing: there is no black and white approach when it comes to taking supplements, but if you’ve been wondering whether you need supplements or not, I will help clarify some of your concerns.

Sometimes, having too many options of supplements on the market can be overwhelming. If you’re still asking yourself what supplements to take, then keep reading.

What Supplements Should I Take?

When you reach for that bottle of vitamins or fish oil, for example, you wonder if any of these will work and if they are safe. Well, the main thing you should be asking yourself is if you need them in the first place. And the truth is, there are tons of supplements for different needs.

Our body requires all the necessary nutrients, like vitamins, minerals, protein, healthy fat, and fiber every day. The best source for these nutrients is real food. Nothing beats having a balanced lifestyle that includes quality whole foods. But the reality is that most people are not meeting the minimum requirements of certain nutrients, especially vitamins and minerals.

Even with fiber, people struggle to eat enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, for instance. That’s why you can see many symptoms like digestive issues and lack of energy.

Supplements come into the picture to help your body meet all the necessary nutrients. They also help avoid any deficiency. Supplements can even strengthen your body and enhance your metabolism. There are many benefits of taking supplements. The answer to whether you’ll need to take them depends on many other things.

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Should I Invest in Supplements?

Before I suggest a list of the types of supplements you should take, this is what you should bear in mind. Supplements are just an aid to a healthy eating lifestyle. In other words, you should always aim to eat healthier, vary your plate, and have enough whole foods in your diet. That is crucial to ensure that you are meeting at least the minimum nutrient requirements.

You shouldn’t invest in supplements to get your main nutrition. Always focus on quality foods before you supplement your diet. Now, supplements can reinforce what you’re lacking in your eating lifestyle. Because of that, I love to always have some sort of multivitamin complex.

In general, if you have a proper eating lifestyle, it’s not mandatory to invest in supplements. However, there are specific cases, for example, pregnant women, in which we recommend taking supplements. Always make sure that you check with your doctor or nutritionist before taking any form of supplement.

Why Do I Need Supplements? Which Ones Are Important?

Below are the most common reasons why you may need to take supplements and which ones you should try.

1. Restricting Eating Lifestyles

As a nutritionist, I rarely recommend anyone going through a restrictive diet. In fact, I discourage it altogether. The best thing is that you embrace a balanced eating lifestyle since this is the way to ensure you stay at a healthy weight and have a good metabolism. That’s the reason why I don’t like removing entire food groups from people’s diets.

However, I also understand diverse eating lifestyles. For example, there is a vast majority of people that are actively changing to a vegan lifestyle. If you’re a raw vegan or strictly plant-based, you may need to supplement certain vitamins. Because animal foods like dairy, certain meats, and poultry have essential vitamins and minerals like B12, iron, and folic acid, then you may have less intake of these in plant-based foods. There is much debate in this area related to plant-based diets, but basically, experts recommend taking supplements.

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As I said about restrictive diets, eliminating entire food groups can cause you to suffer certain problems like lack of energy, constipation, less muscle, and lower brain function.[1] Before you try any type of diet out there, make sure you have a better relationship with food and check with a health professional. Overall, a good multivitamin complex should be good enough to supply all your needs. Go for the ones that provide vitamin B complex and minerals like iron, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, and zinc.

2. Reinforcing Nutrient Intake

It’s true that eating the right foods is essential for your body. Apart from that, certain processed foods, like dairy, cereals, and others are fortified with certain vitamins and minerals. Take advantage of these types of healthy foods as well.

If you feel like you could lack a certain nutrient, then taking multivitamins is a good option. Not only because it will help you meet your goals, but it will also ensure that your body has more energy and better performance. Therefore, there is nothing wrong with taking a supplement to reinforce your healthy eating lifestyle. Apart from multivitamins, you could also take fiber supplements in case you struggle with digestive issues or you feel like you’re not eating enough plant-based foods.

3. Special Conditions

There are certain cases or stages in life when you may need to take supplements. For instance, pregnant women require higher amounts of certain vitamins and minerals, like iron and folic acid.[2] Elderly people should also consume some supplements since their body absorbs less nutrients compared to younger people.[3] That’s why certain protein drinks, multivitamins, and omega-3 are prescribed to this age group. Also, people who have certain chronic health problems or underwent surgery may need supplements.

Women going through menopause are also often required to take supplements.[4] If you belong to this age group, you may need to talk to your doctor about supplements to balance off your hormone levels. Remember that not all supplements are made equally, and some ingredients may have side effects. This is especially true if you’re on prescriptions. Always check first.

4. Fitness Goals

Who doesn’t want to boost their fitness results? People that train at the gym often ask if they need to have protein supplements. It all goes down to the basics: eat healthily and put that as a priority. However, you can also take supplements based on your goals.

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Whether you want to burn some fat, build muscle, or are an athlete, supplements can reinforce and speed up your results. But here’s the thing: you should always do it the right way and not rely only on supplements for fitness results. Everything goes hand in hand, and it’s a matter of balance and moderation.

Now, here are some supplements you can take to improve your muscle performance, growth, and fat burn:[5]

  • Whey protein
  • L-glutamine
  • Branch chain amino acids
  • Multi-vitamin complex and fish oil
  • MCT oil

These supplements, coupled with a good diet, help provide steady muscle development, shed fat, and keep a healthy metabolism for better results. You have to be active to see their benefits, though. This will ensure your body is using up the nutrients effectively and not stored as fat.

There are some other great supplements made to boost energy levels and increase muscle efficiency. Here are some examples:[6]

  • Guaraná
  • Gingko biloba
  • Ginseng
  • Creatine
  • Citrulline

These are natural energy boosters. Caffeine also does a good job when it comes to improving your energy levels. These supplements should be a compliment to a healthy diet, or if you struggle with low energy performance when working out.

Speaking of energy, sometimes, simple lifestyle habits like sleeping better can make a huge difference in how you feel. So, make sure you are also working on these other areas of your life and not relying exclusively on supplements.

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5. Beauty and Self-Care

You can also find supplements for personal care. Some help to enhance your skin health, others are for hair and nails growth.

For example, collagen and multivitamins are commonly used for beauty and skincare. Because collagen is our skin’s main protein, we need to ensure our body has enough to stay glowing and healthy. Collagen also has powerful effects on skin beauty and anti-aging. You can easily add this protein to your drinks and foods to enhance your own skin’s collagen.[7]

If you didn’t know, adding collagen to your regimen after you’re 25 can help slow down the effects of aging. At that age, our skin produces less collagen, and we lose skin elasticity. Therefore, it’s a nice addition to your supplements and skincare routine.

Final Thoughts

You should always aim to have a healthy eating regimen before thinking about what supplements you need. Second, assess what are your lifestyle and health goals. Also, determine if your health and/or fitness condition requires you to add supplements.

Remember that your objective is to get enough protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. If your diet lacks any of these, look for an assessment on how to get these nutrients.

More Tips on Taking Supplements

Featured photo credit: Mika Baumeister via unsplash.com

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Reference

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