Can Exercise Really Leave You with More Energy?

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It is a common misbelief that exercising leaves you tired.

And in some cases, it is true.

However, when done properly, exercising can actually leave you with more energy than when you started; numerous study results prove this over and over again. Let me explain.

Energy Production

Our bodies are very efficient machines; they only do as much work as necessary. If our energy demand is low, so will the production of energy to meet that demand.

At the heart of energy production are little “energy factories” called mitochondria within each cell. Simplistically their job is to take food and turn it into energy to fuel our body.

The more energy we use, the harder mitochondria work to meet the energy demand – up to a point.

Factors Determining Energy

Studies have shown there are four basic factors that determine energy levels:

  • Hydration
  • Food
  • Intensity
  • Duration


Dehydration itself can cause fatigue, which is why trainers push drinking water before, during and after working out.

To prevent dehydration, start at about three hours before working out and up to the beginning of your workout, drinking 3 cups of water. During your exercise routine, drink about a cup of water every 20 minutes.

Post-workout drink about 3 cups of water per pound of weight lost during your workout.


If your mitochondria don’t have enough food to work with, they can’t create the energy needed for your training.

Therefore, eat something like some fresh fruit about 30 minutes to an hour before starting your training. It should be broken down and ready to use by the time you start working out.


Studies have shown that more is not necessarily better. Low and moderate intensity training seem to produce the best results as far as having more energy.

High intensity had the opposite effect and actually did create fatigue. Exercises like yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, walking and even resistance training when done at a slow level, produced the best results.


Again, more is not better. Exercising for long periods of time – like 45 minutes to an hour at a time or more – did not produce a decrease in fatigue as well as working out 20 to 30 minutes.

The journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics published result of a study in 2008, where the University of Georgia researchers found sedentary participants who complained of fatigue increased their energy level by 20% while decreasing their fatigue level by as much as 65% simply by participating in regular, low-intensity exercise. It is hard to argue with those results!

How Exercise Energizes You (and Which Exercises to Perform)

Fatigue, or not having enough energy to workout, is a common reason (i.e. excuse) why some people choose to not exercise. But as counter-intuitive as it may sound, exercising actually increases your energy.

All you must do is get your butt off the couch and do it!

How it happens

The production of energy begins at the cellular level.

Once you start exercising, the tiny energy factories in each cell called mitochondria multiply and start working harder to keep up with the increase in demand for energy.

In particular, cardiovascular types of exercises stimulate them the most as these exercises burn up the most calories.  But not all types of exercise, even cardio, produce the same benefit.

What works and why

Studies have found that low to moderate intensity exercises, with a duration of 15 to 30 minutes, produce the most energy. In one study, participants increased energy levels by 20% while reducing fatigue by 65% just by regularly exercising.

Once above the moderate level or greater than 30 minutes in duration, the opposite effect can happen – where you do actually end up fatigued because you are using up energy faster than your mitochondria can make it.

Best types of exercises

As mentioned, cardio produces the most benefit, so it stands to reason why swimming, walking and cycling at the prescribed intensity and workout times increase energy levels. To increase the benefit, increase the level of work required.

For example, swimming can be made more difficult by swimming against a current. Walking and cycling by choosing a route with hills that must be climbed.

Types of energy

Not all energy is created equal. Researchers have found there are basically two types: calm and tense.

The tense type comes from too high an intensity or too much time – like 45 minutes on the treadmill at an incline – and actually makes you more tired because it creates tension within your body.

However calm energy – the kind created from taking a moderate walk, or doing yoga, Tai Chi or Pilates – creates the calm version which actually increases energy levels.

Dancing to music is another activity with a calm energy effect.

All of these exercises, done at a low to moderate intensity and for less than 30 minutes at a time all produce a calming effect that will leave you feeling more energized:

  1. Walking
  2. Cycling
  3. Dancing
  4. Yoga
  5. Pilates
  6. Tai Chi

As with many things in life more is not always better; exercising is no different.

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