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Tired All the Time? Step It Up

Low-Intensity Exercise Edges Out Fatigue -- Without Requiring Lots of Sweat
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Feb. 29, 2008 -- If fatigue hounds your days, a little exercise may shoo it away without leaving you drenched with sweat.

So say University of Georgia researchers. In a new study, they report that healthy young adults who say they're tired all the time got an energy boost from a low-intensity workout plan.

Here's all it took: three sessions per week of pedaling a stationary bicycle at a mild pace. They didn't need to train every day, and they didn't push themselves too far -- just far enough to shake their fatigue.

In short, that old excuse, "I'm too tired to exercise," is dead wrong. You may feel too tired, but if you can just do it anyway, you'll likely wind up with more energy.

"Too often we believe that a quick workout will leave us worn out -- especially when we are already feeling fatigued," researcher Timothy Puetz, PhD, says in a news release. "However, we have shown that regular exercise can actually go a long way in increasing feelings of energy, particularly in sedentary individuals."

Puetz and colleagues studied 36 young adults (average age: 23) who said they were tired all the time but who didn't have chronic fatigue syndrome or any other medical reason for their tiredness.

When the study started, all participants were sedentary. They took a fitness test and then were split into three groups.

One group was assigned to moderate-intensity exercise. Three times a week for six weeks, they rode a stationary bike for 20 minutes after a five-minute warm-up.

Another group followed the same workout schedule, but at a low-intensity pace. For comparison, the third group simply sat on an exercise bike -- without pedaling it -- for an equal amount of time.

Every week, participants rated how energetic and how tired they felt.

Both groups of exercisers reported a 20% boost in their energy level.

The low-intensity group reported the biggest improvement in fighting their fatigue. That may be because the gentle pace of their workout didn't overtax them, note Puetz end colleagues.

Participants didn't become exercise fanatics. They pretty much remained sedentary except for their study assignment. So their new vigor didn't require a lot of time or a radical lifestyle change.

The study appears in February's edition of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics.

Check in with your doctor before starting a new exercise program, especially if you've been inactive for a while.

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