14 Energy Drainers -- and Fixes
Ask any woman the one thing she wants more of, and energy will most likely top her list. While getting more sleep would seem to be the obvious solution (Americans average seven hours of sleep a night), daytime exhaustion has a host of other, often surprising, causes -- all of which are easily treated. "In many cases, low energy can be traced to a certain behavior and fixed in a few weeks," says Martin Lipsky, MD, a professor and chair of the department of family medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Evanston Northwestern Healthcare. (If fatigue persists without explanation, however, talk to your doctor. It could be a sign of a more serious illness.)
Want to get your energy back? Here are 14 reasons why there's less pep in your step, plus the easy fixes that will get you up and running. Your vitality makeover starts right now!You Don't Exercise
At least 30 minutes of a sweat-inducing workout during the day may help you sleep deeply, says Thomas E. Scammell, MD, an assistant professor of neurology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. His research suggests the increase in body temperature during exercise activates sleep-producing cells in the brain.
Fit in half an hour of cardiovascular exercise four days a week, says Wil Maxton, a certified personal trainer and nutrition specialist in Philadelphia. Even a daily 30-minute walk in the morning or after dinner can raise your body temperature enough to improve your energy level and help you fall asleep. To give your heart a good workout, walk briskly while still being able to maintain a conversation. Keep in mind, though, that exercise also raises your metabolism, which can heighten alertness and interfere with sleep, says Dr. Scammell. Work out early in the day when possible, and if you have to exercise in the evening, wait at least three hours before going to bed.You're an Irregular Sleeper
If you're getting up at the crack of dawn during the workweek, then sleeping in on weekends, you're disrupting your body's natural sleep schedule (or circadian rhythm). The more your patterns vary from day to day, the more tired you'll become. Stay reasonably consistent in terms of when you go to bed and wake up to avoid throwing off your internal clock, says Dr. Scammell. Otherwise, you're at risk for sleep deprivation. Research shows that an irregular wake-up time impacts daytime sleepiness more than an erratic bedtime does.You're Taking New Pills
If you're using a new medication and your energy level has lowered, talk to your doctor about switching drugs or dosages. Over-the-counter and prescription drugs like antihistamines, antidepressants, pain medications, and beta-blockers can tire you even if drowsiness isn't a listed side effect, says Dr. Lipsky.Your Bedroom Isn't Dark
You'll sleep best when your room is very dark, says Samir Bangalore, MD, a medicine intern at Evanston Hospital in Illinois. Make sure blinds and curtains block intense light like streetlamps. (Low-intensity illumination such as a night-light is not likely to keep you awake.) In a recent study from Northwestern University, Dr. Bangalore found that people who were awakened in the middle of the night by bright light (such as a bathroom light) and kept awake for several hours had a shift in circadian rhythm, in essence giving them jet lag. The longer the exposure, the more the body's natural clock was disturbed.You're Dehydrated
Dehydration causes your body to conserve energy by decreasing blood circulation. This deprives your muscles of oxygenated blood and causes you to become fatigued, Dr. Lipsky says. Even mild dehydration can make you feel lethargic. Symptoms include constipation; rough, dry skin; dry tongue, lips and mucous membranes; dark, strong-smelling urine; thirst; weakness; and fatigue. Be sure to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. Your urine should be pale yellow, says Dr. Lipsky. If it's not, keep drinking until the color changes. Replace lost fluids during a workout by having 4 to 6 ounces of water every 15 to 20 minutes, advises Kristine Clark, PhD, RD, director of sports nutrition at Pennsylvania State University. Weigh yourself before and after you exercise, and drink 16 ounces (two cups) for every pound lost, she says.You Slouch
Poor posture creates fatigue by causing muscles, ligaments, and joints to work harder than they do when your body is aligned correctly, says Scott Bautch, of the American Chiropractic Association. Experts estimate that looking down at a 45-degree angle uses five times more energy than holding your head in an upright position. The added strain on muscles also decreases blood (and oxygen) flow to your brain by as much as 30 percent, making you feel tired. To check your posture, draw an imaginary line from the middle of your ear through the center of your shoulder and hip. Or have someone take a photo of you from the side -- bad posture is easy to spot. Correct your slouch by strengthening back muscles. Try two sets of 20 shoulder rolls forward and backward twice a week.
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