How Cardio Cures Fatigue
Too pooped to drag yourself to your favorite Spinning class? A little sweat session may be just what you need to recharge your batteries. Just 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise — done at 60 to 75 percent of maximum heart rate — has been shown to significantly improve both mood and energy levels, says Tom LaFontaine, PhD, a clinical exercise physiologist in Columbia, Missouri. Research has shown that exercise elevates serotonin levels to provide an instant lift. The best cardio Rx for an energy boost: Aerobic exercises like running and fast walking, done in the morning, will rev you up for several hours.
Got a case of the energy blahs? Beat them — pronto — with our invigorating exercise-ball workout. Most forms of fitness will make you feel more alert, but doing strength moves on a stability ball will really send your body a wake-up call, says Elizabeth Gillies, a Pilates instructor and the author of 101 Ways to Work Out on the Ball (Fair Winds Press, 2004). The ball makes you balance, which improves core strength and posture. "That helps you take in breath better and more efficiently, which gives you an instant boost," explains Gillies. Bonus: You'll also sculpt sexy legs, shoulders, arms, butt, and abs as you reenergize.
Do two sets of each exercise and say so long to sluggishness in seconds!
Strengthens Hamstrings, Quads, Calves, Glutes, Core
- Stand behind a stability ball on floor, legs slightly wider than hip-width apart, toes turned out.
- Squat all the way down, bending knees deeper than 90 degrees, and place hands on either side of ball.
- Press elbows into insides of thighs to deepen the stretch.
- Pushing off with your legs and glutes, jump as high as you can, pointing toes and straightening your legs while lifting ball overhead, arms extended.
- Repeat 5 to 8 times.
Strengthens Inner Thighs, Slutes, Shoulders, Obliques; Stretches Hamstrings
- Stand with ball between thighs, left foot turned out 90 degrees and right foot pointing forward so feet are perpendicular to each other, with the heel of left foot bisecting the arch of the right.
- Squeeze ball with thighs while shifting weight onto left leg, lowering left hand down toward thigh or shin while stretching right arm up toward ceiling, rotating from waist.
- Hold for 8 seconds.
- Return to starting position.
- Repeat twice, then switch sides and repeat.
Double Leg Extensions
Strengthens Glutes, Hamstrings, Lower Back, Core
- Lie facedown with thighs and midsection over the ball, feet hip-width apart on floor, supporting weight on the balls of your feet.
- Rest elbows, forearms, and hands on top of ball, chest extended and head up.
- Roll forward until elbows and forearms are on the floor, keeping back straight and legs together, extended above ball.
- Hold for 2 counts.
- Roll back to starting position.
- Repeat 5 times.
Standing Lateral Side Bend
Strengthens Obliques, Glutes, Outer Thighs, Core, Shoulders
- Holding ball, stand with feet just wider than hip-width apart and slightly turned out, knees soft.
- Bring ball overhead with arms extended, keeping shoulders relaxed.
- Bend upper body to left side while lifting left leg to the side, leading with little toe.
- Return to center; repeat on right.
- Do 4 to 6 slow, controlled reps per side, alternating sides.
Overhead Triceps Press
Strengthens Triceps, Glutes, Core
- Lie faceup with head, neck, and shoulders on the ball, holding 3- to 8-pound dumbbells with arms bent and elbows pointing toward ceiling.
- Walk your feet forward until your knees are at 90 degrees, heels on floor, hips lifted.
- Straighten arms, keeping elbows in place; hold for 1 count and lower back to starting position.
- Do 10 to 12 reps.
Twisting Lunge Spiral
Strengthens Inner and Outer Thighs, Quads, Hamstrings
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, ball to right side.
- Take a big step diagonally forward with left foot so left leg crosses in front of right.
- Hold the ball with your right fingertips, placing left hand on hip.
- Keeping hips and feet facing forward, bend front knee; at same time, roll the ball away from your body.
- Keep chest lifted while pressing right hip forward, feeling the stretch along your right thigh.
- Return to starting position; do 2 more reps, holding the twist for 8 counts on the last rotation.
- Change sides.
- Repeat 3 times on each side.
Standing Inner-Thigh Energizer
Strengthens Inner Thighs, Obliques, Core
- Straddle ball with feet turned out, arms out to sides at shoulder height with palms facing floor.
- To stand up, shift weight to left leg, squeezing inner thighs into ball as you lift right leg (hold on to chair or wall for balance, if needed).
- Come back to center and squat down again; switch sides and repeat.
- Do 4 reps per side.
Kneeling Preacher Curls
Strengthens Biceps, Core
- Holding 5- to 12-pound dumbbells, kneel with chest on ball, elbows pressing tightly into surface, palms up.
- Slowly lower weights, keeping elbows slightly bents and pressed into ball; curl weights toward shoulders.
- Do 10 to 12 reps.
5 Snacks for Instant Oomph
Exercise isn't the only thing that revs you up. The right foods can also provide a pick-me-up. Aim for a carb-protein snack with about 250 calories, recommends Leslie Bonci, RD, director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Some of her favorite choices:
A blend of high-fiber cereal, nuts, and dried fruit
"It's got carbs for fuel and protein for a longer-lasting effect, plus lots of fiber and iron."
Peanut butter on a banana
"The protein and fat in the peanut butter give you long-lasting energy, while the banana gives you plenty of carbohydrates and the electrolyte potassium."
An apple drizzled with honey
"Lots of fiber, plus quick energy from the honey."
Popcorn tossed with dried cherries
"It's sweet, salty, crunchy, and chewy, with some fiber to boot."
Pretzels or Wheat Thins with a few teaspoons of hummus
"Hummus provides fiber and protein and the pretzels or crackers give you carbs and electrolyte-replacing sodium."
3 Quickie Energizers
Morning: Sun Salutation
- Stand with arms by sides, then raise hands overhead.
- Fold forward from hips and place hands on floor (bend knees if necessary).
- Step right foot back into a lunge.
- Step left foot back and raise hips up into an upside-down V.
- Step right foot up between hands in a lunge, then step left foot up to meet right.
- Stand up, lifting arms overhead. Repeat twice.
Midday: Energizing Breath
- Sit comfortably with back supported.
- Inhale fully, filling your lungs with air.
- Exhale forcefully through the nose with 10 short, staccato breaths, pulling abdominals in with each exhalation. Fully empty your lungs and repeat.
Evening: Calisthenic Circuit
- Get up off the couch during TV commercial breaks and do 30 seconds (about the length of one commercial) of each of the following exercises: jumping jacks, squats, push-ups, crunches.
- Do a set at each commercial break.