It may seem paradoxical that exercise, which makes you tired, would improve symptoms of tiredness and fatigue, but the truth is that lack of adequate physical activity and poor physical fitness are common causes for fatigue and low vitality. Actually, there is little doubt that exercise improves overall energy while it helps health conditions such as diabetes type 2.

Physical activity maintains health

Physical activity and movement are vital to maintaining health because they:

  1. Increase muscle mass
  2. Increase oxygenation of the cells
  3. Promote the elimination of toxins through sweating
  4. Move waste products through the lymphatic vessels
  5. Help return used blood through the veins
  6. Stimulate immune function
  7. Improve memory and cognitive function
  8. Strengthen bones
  9. Improve bowel function
  10. Speed the burning of fat

How exercise improves energy

Physical activity is one of the most important things you can do to improve your energy. It doesn’t require drugs, supplements, or special diets; it simply requires your commitment and effort.

Unfortunately, the physical activity of Americans seems to be declining. In a study conducted by Dr. Clark and associates with a group of people suffering from fibromyalgia, the participants were asked why they did not exercise (exercise has proven helpful in relieving the pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia).Sedentary people reported being “too tired or too busy”. Sixty-four percent reported that they would like to exercise more but didn’t have the time. However, 84 percent reported watching at least several hours of television a week.

Exercise improves energy through the following mechanisms:

  1. Increases muscles mass
  2. Reduces body fat
  3. Increases pumping volume of the heart
  4. Improves circulation
  5. Improves blood sugar regulation
  6. Lowers blood fats (cholesterol, triglycerides)
  7. Improves mood
  8. Improves mental capacity

Exercise increases the number of mitochondria

If you recall from my article Wandering What Is Fatigue and What Causes It?, ATP is a high-energy substance produced in millions of little structures called mitochondria found inside the cells. Mitochondria are the part of the cell responsible for producing energy.

When you don’t exercise, the number of mitochondria in the cells actually goes down. When you exercise, it goes up. The amazing thing is that the number of mitochondria only increases in the specific muscle groups that are being exercised. The end result is that if you have more mitochondria you are more able to produce energy and you can also burn more fat.

Muscles burn sugar and fat

Muscles burn two forms of fuel: Sugar and fat. For quick bursts of energy such as lifting weights, the body needs a quick source of fuel such as sugar. For longer bouts of exercise, the body burns fat. People who are physically unfit (who often have too much body fat) are inefficient at burning fat. They burn sugar just fine, but their fat burning ability is poor.

In fact, when the unfit or overweight person exercises, sugar is rapidly used up, causing a drop in blood sugar. This leads to hunger for sweets. Two things can happen here:

  1. If sweets are eaten, they tend to be converted into fat.
  2. If this urge is ignored and nothing is eaten, the body uses the protein from the muscles as a source of fuel. This can lead to a waste of muscle and can decrease lean body mass.

Two kinds of exercise

In order to improve their fat-burning ability, unfit or overweight people should consider both weight lifting and aerobic fitness activity. It should be a combination of aerobic conditioning exercises and weight-bearing muscle building exercises.

Why the two?

  1. The term aerobic means “with oxygen”. It is usually used to describe activity that uses or requires oxygen. Aerobic exercise increases oxygen to the tissues and improves overall metabolism. With thorough delivery of oxygen to the tissues a person has more energy.
  2. Weight-bearing exercises, some of which are anaerobic or without oxygen, increase the size of muscles. Remember, muscle is the engine that drives energy metabolism; the more muscle you have, the easier is to burn fat and sugar to produce energy.

Signs and symptoms of physical unfitness

The signs and symptoms of poor physical fitness are very general. While there is no specific medical condition or set of symptoms associated with physical inactivity, some common manifestations are:

  1. Chronic fatigue and low vitality
  2. Poor sleep or insomnia
  3. Shortness of breath on exertion
  4. Chronic health problems
  5. Weak muscles
  6. Mood swings
  7. Aching muscles after minimal exertion
  8. Easily injured during strenuous activity

Some common aerobic and fitness exercises that improve energy

There are various forms of movement that can help you improve your general fitness

Exercises that can help you improve your general fitness
Stair stepping Stair climbing
Bicycling Jumping rope
Walking Swimming
Treadmill Aerobic dance
Basketball Hiking
Racquetball Skating (roller or ice)
Soccer tennis
Sit ups Push ups
yoga T’ai Chi


The solution to fatigue that is related to insufficient physical activity is to become physically active. No way around it. If you have never been physically active, you may be a little resistant to start now. One way to overcome this resistance is to see yourself as a physically fit person and to think about the benefits you will derive from it. Remember that any of us is a potential athlete. The only difference between those who are doing it and those who are not is desire and action.

Starting a fitness program

When you begin a fitness program, keep a few things in mind:

  1. Have a physical before you begin training, especially if you have an existing medical condition. If you suffer from diabetes, heart disease, fibromyalgia, or any other medical condition, consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program. Exercise must be tailored very specifically in these cases.
  2. Begin your training gradually. Always tailor your training to your level of fitness. If you push too hard at the beginning, your muscles will be sore for the following days and you may feel like you are sick.
  3. Exercise with someone who is in about the same shape as you are. Otherwise you may get discouraged.
  4. Make sure your exercise is fun. If it is not fun, you won’t do it for long.
  5. Vary your routines. You may want to walk three miles a day every other day and lift weights the other days. Variation will keep you from getting bored.
  6. Try to get involved with a program that adds a social atmosphere to your exercise. Exercising in solitude takes a lot of discipline.
  7. If you are uncertain about where to begin, consult a fitness trainer who can help you tailor a program to your specific needs.
  8. Consume adequate antioxidant nutrients such as vitamin E and C that protect against free-radical effects of exercise.

Bottom line?…

Bear in mind that physical activity is one of the most important things you can do to improve your energy. You don’t have to do intense aerobics for two hours every day of the week; just practice some exercises that allow you to move your muscles, expand your lungs, sweat and tone your body. You will be highly rewarded if you put the effort and you are consistent.


I am Andy Carpenter and I would start by saying that I have a Bachelor Degree in Nutrition Science conferred by California State University, Los Angeles and that I am certified as a Registered Dietitian.

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