Energy run

This post is also available in Dutch.

Regular exercise can paradoxically help you feel more energetic. How is this possible?

In the midst of busy projects, approaching deadlines, and overwhelming work tasks, many of us fail to find time for physical activity. After a long day at work, resting on the couch is more appealing than sweating at the gym. As difficult as it is to refuse the charm of your soft couch, regular exercise might be just what you need to get your energy boost.

blogRunPicture: Bert Beelen (Radboud University)

Feeling tired and physical activity
People who feel overwhelmed and burnt out by work might be experiencing work-related fatigue, which is a prolonged feeling of tiredness. Work-related fatigue is one of the symptoms of burnout and can result in long-term sick leave. Fortunately, treating work-related fatigue can be as simple as putting on your running shoes and going for a run a few times a week. It seems that people who are more active experience lower level of work-related fatigue.

Running therapy
A study at Radboud University examined effects of regular exercising on students who experienced constant fatigue. 50 students join the 6-week running therapy program. Students who completed running sessions not only reported decreased fatigue compared to the students who did not exercise, but they also seemed to improve their performance on cognitive tasks. Working out means that you have to invest physical energy. Why would this help you to feel more energetic?

Runner’s brain
Some studies suggest that working out gives you a burst of endorphins and this is what makes you feel more energetic. Endorphin is a neurotransmitter, a substance produced in the brain, and is believed to be related to the positive feeling we experience after a work out, also referred to as “runner’s high”. Even though the endorphin hypothesis is very popular, it has recently received some criticism, and other explanations have been proposed. For instance, regular exercise seems to regulate the balance of different stress hormones such as cortisol. This can be especially beneficial for fatigued individuals who have a disturbed cortisol level. Moreover, neurogenesis research suggests that physical activity might also impact neuronal changes in the hippocampus, a brain area that is involved in memory and learning, and that these neuronal changes can influence our cognition.

I can do anything!
Aside from obtaining an energy boost, exercise can also help to deal with psychological stress, increase positive feelings about yourself, and increase your capacity to cope with work demands. All in all, people who exercise have more energy to handle tasks and feel more capable about themselves.

A marathon run?
Feeling inspired by this blog? Already planning an intensive workout schedule? Don’t! It is important to exercise, but how you go about doing so, is equally important.  For those who do not exercise regularly, high intensity exercises are not a good way to start, they might even increase the feeling of fatigue.  Begin with a slight increase to your usual active routine, and you might already see the benefits.  In sum, if you’re feeling tired and overwhelmed, go for a walk, jog or run, a few times a week, but don’t over do it.

More information
Article about cortisol and exercise
Article about cortisol in fatigue people
Article aboout fatigue people and exercise
Article about neurogenesis and exercise
Article about endorphins and exercise

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