Quick Tips: Having Enough Energy to Stay Active

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You may be worried about having enough energy to exercise. These tips can help.

And remember this: Exercise can actually give you more energy. After they start to be more active, most people feel more energetic throughout the day.

Eat a balanced diet

Unless you're exercising for an hour or more, you don't need to eat more calories or eat special foods for energy. A balanced diet will give most people the energy they need for physical activity.

  • Eat the recommended number of servings from each food group. The interactive Web site www.MyPyramid.gov lets you personalize a food guide pyramid based on your age, gender, and amount of daily physical activity. The food groups are:
    • Meat and meat substitutes.
    • Dairy.
    • Fruits and vegetables.
    • Grains, such as breads and pasta.
    • A limited amount of fats and sweets.
  • Have a healthy snacklike an apple, a whole-wheat bagel, or a handful of baby carrots if you're running low on energy. Nutrition bars are convenient, but be sure to read the label. They can be high in calories.

Drink plenty of fluids

Many people do not drink enough fluids to balance the loss from sweating from physical activity. To protect yourself from dehydration:

  • Drink plenty of water before, during, and after you are active. This is very important when it’s hot out and when you do intense exercise.
  • Use a sports drink, such as Gatorade or Powerade, if you will be exercising for longer than 1 hour, and try to drink it at least every 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol.They increase dehydration.
  • Don't take salt tablets. Most people get plenty of salt in their diets. If you are worried about replacing minerals lost through sweating, use a sports drink.
  • In extremely hot weather, take extra care to prevent dehydration. Exercise early in the day or later in the evening when it is cooler.
  • If you get dizzy,lightheaded, or very tired, stop exercising.

Make sure you're rested

If you feel weak and tired but aren't sick:

  • Try a short, brisk walk or similar activity. You may find that walking for 5 to 10 minutes actually gives you more energy.
  • Switch back and forth between rest and exercise. Gradually increasing your exercise may give you more energy.
  • Avoid medicines that can cause tiredness, such as tranquilizers and cold and allergy medicines.
  • Improve your diet.Eating a balanced diet may give you more energy. Don't skip meals, especially breakfast.
  • Stay away from alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine.They can actually make you feel tired.
  • Cut back on watching TV.Spend that time with friends, try new activities, or travel to break the cycle of tiredness.
  • Get a good night's sleep:
    • Try to get rid of all sounds and lights in your bedroom.
    • Don't eat just before you go to bed.
    • Use your bed only for sleeping and sex. Do not read or watch TV in bed.
    • Get regular exercise during the day, but not within 3 or 4 hours of bedtime. Figure out what time of day works best for your sleep patterns. Outdoor exercise may help.

If you feel weak and tired because of a cold or the flu:

  • Get extra restwhile you are ill. Let your symptoms be your guide.
    • If you have a cold, you may be able to go on with your usual routine and just get some extra sleep.
    • If you have the flu, you may need to spend a few days in bed.
  • Return slowlyto your usual activities.
  • Drink plenty of fluids so you don't get dehydrated.

Credits

Author Debby Golonka, MPH
Editor Susan Van Houten, RN, BSN, MBA
Associate Editor Pat Truman, MATC
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Heather Chambliss, PhD - Exercise Science/Weight Management
Last Updated August 26, 2008

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