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Exercise for Energy: Workouts That Work

Want to fight fatigue? Here's what kind of exercise -- and how much -- is best.

Exercise for Energy: What Really Works continued...

He says that many Americans, particularly "achievement-oriented Type A people" have "tense energy" -- an effective state that allows you to get lots of work done, but that can quickly move into tense-tiredness, a negative state often associated with depression.

On the other hand, what he calls "calm energy" is a combination of a high physical and mental energy level, paired with low physical tension. It is this state, he says, that offers more long-lasting energy. And, he says, it can be achieved with the right kind of exercise.

"What summarizes the relationship best is moderate exercise -- like a 10- or 15-minute walk -- has the primary effect of increased energy, while very intense exercise -- like working out at the gym, 45 minutes of treadmill -- has the primary effect of at least temporarily reducing energy, because you come away tired," he says.

Behavioral therapist and personal trainer Therese Pasqualoni, PhD, agrees.

When exercising for energy, she says, "You should always aim to exercise in your low to moderate training heart rate range. This will prevent you from depleting your body, and help you avoid feeling fatigued, which would otherwise prevent you from getting the maximum energy benefits."

Of course, what's moderate for some may be too little for others. "How much you can do before you cross the threshold into tiredness is often dependent upon how well your body is conditioned," Thayer says.

In addition to walking, experts say other forms of exercise that help increase "calm energy" are yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, and, sometimes, resistance strength training, particularly when done with slow, deliberate motions.

Further, Thayer says playing music during any workout may increase "calm energy" while helping to reduce tension.

"In a study we did about 10 years ago, we found that music was a very effective way to change a person's mood," he says. "And though we don't have any data just yet, we are now studying whether workouts that combine music and movement, like Jazzercise, can induce this state of calm energy that is so healthy."

While experts agree that moderate movement is key to increasing energy, even if you overdo it, your end result may still be less fatigue.

"Though it's mostly anecdotal at this point, we are starting to see that while intense exercise may tire you out, it also reduces tension, so that after an hour or so, when your muscles begin to recover, you might see a surge of energy but without tension," says Thayer.

Regardless of what energy-producing exercise you choose, you can get more out of your workout time by eating some fruit just before you start, says Pasqualoni, founder of the Strike It Healthy web site.

"This allows food, which is a form of energy, to be broken down and the nutrients enter the bloodstream, while preparing the body for work," she says. "The end result: You have more energy while you're working out -- and more energy afterwards."

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