Should I exercise when I’m tired?

S.A.C. Dip (Diet, Exercise & Fitness), Advanced Human Anatomy & Physiology Level 3
Ask Louise

14 March 2019

Pros: Exercise can re-energise you

If you are tired after a long day at work, or after a particularly busy weekend, exercise is probably the last thing you feel like doing. Sometimes, though, the hardest part of a workout is finding the motivation to get started. Once you get going, there are a whole host of benefits to be gained. 

Exercise can improve mood and energy levels, for example, because it triggers the release of endorphins. These stimulate a positive feeling in the body – a natural ‘high’, if you like. Exercise also increases the production of energy-boosting neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. 

Research by the University of Georgia shows that exercise not only improves energy levels, however, it also works to reduce fatigue.1 It may sound counter-productive to engage in physical activities when you are feeling fatigued but the research shows it actually works to reduce the problem, as long as you don’t try to do too much. Walking for 15 minutes every day should bring the same positive effects to your energy levels as a more strenuous activity.2  

Pros: Exercise can help sleep

If your tiredness is caused by poor sleep then exercise may be helpful.

A Swiss study conducted in 2009 investigated whether or not regular exercise improved sleep. The results were quite positive as, compared to a control group, participants who exercised regularly reported better sleep patterns. It took less time for this group to fall asleep and they woke up less during the night too.  

One of the key things to note about this study, however, is that the effects were seen because exercise was done regularly at a high level. So, what sleep-related benefits does exercise offer to those who may participate in it a little less frequently?

Well, exercise can help to reduce stress so if this is keeping you up at night, a little more activity may bring benefits to your sleep patterns. Getting more sleep may, in turn, influence your energy levels during the day. 

My Top Tip:


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Cons: The body needs rest and recovery

If you are feeling tired because you’ve pushed yourself too hard during your last workout, then it may be time to rest. 

The body needs time to recover after a workout and not only because it can leave you feeling particularly low in energy. Allowing time to rest between workouts ensures that you are able to come back stronger and fitter next time.  

Exercising too much, too quickly can also lead to sore muscles, swelling and reduced strength so there are added benefits to be gained from taking time out.  

Cons: Low quality workout

Although exercising when you’re tired can bring some benefits to your energy levels, it is important to know when to take time out.

Exercising when you’re feeling lethargic can lead to poor performance. You may, therefore, get more out of a workout if you wait and do it at a time you are feeling less tired. 

What is making me so tired?

If you are wondering whether or not to exercise when you are feeling tired it’s a good idea to stop and think about what’s causing the problem in the first place, before diving into a workout. So, here are a few things to consider:

  • Are you getting enough sleep? 
  • Thyroid issues can cause symptoms such as tiredness and extra weight – is this something you should get investigated?
  • Iron deficiencies can occur as a result of heavy periods or not eating meat (particularly if you cut too much out, too quickly). You could try to up your iron intake to see if you feel a difference
  • Diuretics like coffee drain potassium stores which may also contribute to fatigue
  • Magnesium levels decline as a result of poor sleep, weight changes, exercise, lots of coffee and tea and certain medications. A gentle magnesium supplement such as Balance Mineral Drink will help to keep levels topped up. 
  • Dehydration can lead to poor energy levels – aim to drink 1.5-2 litres of plain, still water a day
  • Are you doing too much exercise? Is it sustainable?





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