One of the most powerful deterrents that makes people avoid exercise is a feeling of fatigue, lethargy – a lack of energy.
People who are out of shape or just starting an exercise program frequently experience this impediment.
For those who are fit, where does the energy come from? What is the source of the energy?
Certainly, when a person improves their fitness level, many changes occur in their bodies and brains. Muscles get stronger, the heart gets more efficient and becomes a better pump, cardiovascular ability improves, blood vessel (capillaries) growth increases, sleep quality improves, and fuel storage improves – more carbohydrates are stored in your muscles (called muscle glycogen).
Fit individuals have changed their metabolism, circulating hormones and neurotransmitters to be more efficient for energy storage and utilization.
Endorphins are produced in greater quantities in regular exercisers and may have a role, but they function as pain killers as opposed to energy enhancement.
Studies have been done that show regular exercise not only improves mental performance, but improves outlook and positive feelings, optimism.
The cause may be that it’s a combination of the aforementioned factors.
In a study in 2008 at the University of Georgia, researchers found that sedentary healthy adults who took part in as little as 20 minutes of aerobic exercise, three days a week for six consecutive weeks, reported feeling less fatigue and more energy.
In the study, 36 sedentary, healthy, young adults who reported persistent fatigue participated in a program of moderate-intensity exercise, low-intensity exercise or no exercise for six weeks.
The moderate-intensity group exercised for 20 minutes on an exercise bike, which was designed to be equivalent to a fast-paced walk up hills, while the low-intensity group completed the identical duration and frequency on the bike at an intensity level equivalent to a leisurely walk instead.
Both exercise groups experienced a 20 percent increase in energy levels by the end of the study compared to the control group – the non-exercisers.
The low-intensity group reported a 65 percent drop in feelings of fatigue, while the more intense exercisers reported a 49 per cent drop in fatigue.
By taking the step to exercise, you give yourself more energy, both physical and mental, to propel you to more easily do your next exercise session.
It’s called a ‘positive feedback loop’ and reinforces the desire to continue, just like not exercising creates a self-reinforcing loop of lethargy.
The trick is to just take the first step.
Kerry Senchyna holds a bachelor of science degree in kinesiology and is owner of West Coast Kinesiology.