When sleepiness hits, the last thing we think to do is lie down— under a barbell, that is. Yet it turns out exercise won’t necessarily make those eyelids droop any lower. Studies suggest working out can actually boost energy and help prep for a better night’s sleep  . So the next time a wave of fatigue rolls in, consider ditching that 20-minute power nap or double espresso and try hitting the gym.
Photo by Marissa Angell
Running on Empty — The Need-to-Know
Ready for a sleepy statistic? About one in four people (excluding those with serious medical conditions) report feeling tired or fatigued well before bedtime hits. And while guzzling caffeine or fitting in a quick cat nap are common ways to battle tired eyes, the thought of working out may rarely cross our minds.
One series of studies— with a total of almost 5,000 participants over the course of 60 years— found an eye-opening connection between exercise and a reduced risk of low energy and exhaustion . Exercise encourages the heart and lungs to deliver oxygen and nutrients to tissue and facilitates the circulation of blood, possibly leading to greater energy levels. Working up a sweat also acts directly on the central nervous system, which regulates energy levels .
We Can Work It Out — Your Action Plan
It's important to remember that working out shouldn’t replace getting enough shut-eye. Sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain, while excessive exercise can also work against us by increasing the risk of stress fractures, cardiovascular complications, or simply feeling burned out .
So don’t register for the Ironman just yet— while there's a direct connection between physical activity and energy levels, research suggests intense exercise isn’t always the best way to feel more awake. So instead of going for the Olympic gold, hit the gym for a light aerobic workout. Take a leisurely bike ride or walk with a slight incline on the treadmill to feel that vigor in no time.
Have you found that hitting the gym can make you feel better? Tell your story in the comments below!