A daily walk will boost everything from heart health to your mood, but did you know that fitting in a ten-minute walk, or even walking up and down your stairs, can provide a greater energy boost than a cup of black coffee? Exercise scientists at the University of Georgia discovered that 10 minutes of stair walking in the morning had a greater energizing effect than 50mg caffeine, the amount in a single shot espresso, on a group of sleep-deprived adults.
If a run feels like too much effort, researchers say just 25 minutes of gentle hatha yoga – which includes postures and breathing exercises combined with meditation – daily is enough to revive flagging energy levels.
Peter Hall, associate professor in the School of Public Health and Health Systems at the University of Waterloo, asked people in their 20s and 30s to complete 25 minutes of Hatha yoga, 25 minutes of just mindfulness meditation, and 25 minutes of quiet reading (a control task) in random order. Results showed that mindfulness meditation and yoga boosted energy levels, but the energy-enhancing effects of yoga were significantly more powerful.
The bonus was that yoga and meditation boosted brain sharpness in a series of tests.
Green tea is packed with polyphenols, beneficial antioxidant plant compounds that have a positive effect on our health, and the most abundant of these, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), has been shown to have a powerful “anti-fatigue”.
Polyphenols in green tea can also boost the availability of dopamine, a brain substance that helps create positive mood. “Green tea contains L-theanine, an amino acid, that has been shown to have a beneficial impact on mood and stress,” says nutrition therapist Ian Marber. Since about 5% of the dry weight of green tea is caffeine, a cup will also provide an instant boost for alertness and cognition.
Alcohol initially acts as a sedative, the body responding to a few drinks by secreting adenosine, a molecule that promotes sleepiness. However, adenosine levels drop sharply during the night leading to interrupted sleep. And drinking the equivalent of two large glasses of wine (six to seven units) can result in us spending less time than usual in the restorative rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep. That’s why you feel tired and downbeat the day after drinking more than usual.
“A few drinks might seem harmless but they will seriously impact your energy levels the next day,” says Marber.
Studies suggest avoiding alcohol at least four hours before bedtime to prevent disrupted sleep.
There may be a chill in the air, but getting outside will do your mood and energy levels the power of good. A recent study at the University of York found that engaging in nature-based activities lasting 20 to 90 minutes over eight to 12 weeks had a profound impact on improving mood in adults. Being surrounded by nature has also been shown to help ward off feelings of exhaustion and 90% of people report reduced fatigue when switching to outdoor activities after being inside for too long.
Spending just two hours a week – or 17 minutes a day –in parks, a garden, woods or by rivers could boost vitality, according to an analysis of responses from 20,000 adults for a study injournal.
We all know that eating more fruit and veg makes us healthier, but a new study shows that it can also increase happiness levels.
Reporting in the recently, Professor Uma Kambhampati of the University of Reading’s School of Economics showed that the consumption of fruit and vegetables has a positive impact on overall wellbeing and happiness.
“To establish that eating more fruit and vegetables and exercising can increase happiness as well as offer health benefits is a major development,” Kambhampati says.
Don’t reach for a sugary snack or drink, thinking it will pep you up when you are tired – if anything, it could lower your energy levels and leave you feeling groggy. Professor Elizabeth Maylor of the University of Warwick’s Department of Psychology used data collected from 31 published studies involving almost 1,300 adults to look at the effects of sugar on fatigue and mood. She found that people who consumed sugar felt more tired and less alert than those who had less in the diet.
“We hope that our findings will go a long way to dispel the myth of the ‘sugar rush’,” Maylor says.
A high sugar diet also interferes with your sleep. One study in thefound that people who ate a lot of sugar and processed foods tended to sleep less deeply and were more restless at night, resulting in tiredness during the day.
As much as you want to pull the duvet back over your head at weekends, you should try to resist. A lie-in can leave you feeling more tired than getting up at your regular time. Motty Varghese, sleep physiologist and behavioural sleep therapist at the Sleep Therapy Clinic in Dublin, says our bodies crave sleep routine. Going to bed and getting up at different times, she says, means our body’s circadian rhythms can fall out of sync – you expose yourself to light and dark at times when your body isn’t expecting it.
“You really shouldn’t compensate for late nights with lie-ins,” Varghese says. “All a long lie-in does is compromise your ability to fall asleep at night, so it is counterproductive.”
Consistency is key when it comes to catching up on sleep. If you lie in at weekends, your signals to wake up will be delayed when you have to get up for work on Monday morning, meaning you feel more tired and groggy than usual.