This was a recent energy question on Dr. Oz’s Sharecare community, and I thought it was a really important one, so I thought I’d share my answer with all of you.
There are dozens of reasons to exercise on a regular basis. From reduced body fat, increased muscle mass, protection from a number of deadly diseases, not to mention healthier physical build, to the slew of emotional and mental benefits exercise confers. Exercising on a regular basis is one of the absolute best things you can do for your health, regardless of your reasons for doing it. There is one big benefit from exercise, however, that can and will benefit you in almost every aspect of your life: energy. Studies have shown time and time again that exercise helps you feel more energetic and alert over time.
There are many reasons that this could be the case. I am sure you’ve all noticed that any kind of physical exertion creates an increased need for oxygen. Based on your level of physical fitness, you may notice this need sooner than others, but we all find ourselves breathing heavier and faster during exercise. Because of this increased consumption of oxygen, our lung capacity also increases with exercise. Over time, with continues exercise, aerobic capacity increases, allowing you to deliver more and more oxygen to your brain and blood stream, helping you feel more awake, alert, and ready to go. Improving your aerobic capacity by just 15-25% would be like shaving ten to twenty years off your age. Imagine feeling ten years younger just because you started exercising!
In addition to allowing more oxygen to reach your brain and blood stream, exercise allows your blood itself to circulate more efficiently, bring more oxygen to your muscles and allowing for increased functioning throughout your body and heightened energy production.
In addition to helping more oxygen reach your brain and bloodstream, physical activity produces endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals produced at the base of your brain and, when released, produce feelings of pain relief and well-being. In fact, the term “runners’ high” refers to feelings of joy and excitement produced during strenuous physical activity because of the release of endorphins into the blood stream. But even moderate or light physical activity will cause your body to release endorphins, creating similar, if not as strong, effects on your mood. This lifting of your spirits and mood also creates the effect of making you feel more energized and ready to take on the rest of your day.
You do not need to go crazy with the exercise to feel the effects of increased energy. Studies have shown that individuals who start exercising moderately a few times a week report feeling more energized and alert after just six weeks on an exercise regimen. The important thing is to find some sort of physical activity you enjoy, whether it be running, dancing, yoga, gardening, or whatever you like that gets you moving and stick with it. Even moderate exercise will have tremendous effects on your immune functioning, physical endurance, mental health, and general well being. Exercise is one of the most important aspects of a healthy lifestyle, and it is the first step towards feeling more energized, alert, and on top of your game.