Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research
Q: The biggest barrier keeping me from being as active as I know I should be is that I’m just too tired. How can I get the energy to be active?
A: You are not alone in feeling that you don’t have enough energy for physical activity. Nevertheless, finding a way to include some physical activity nearly every day is so important to your health, it is well worth finding a way to solve the problem. And it’s hard to believe, but if you can talk yourself into just 10 minutes of movement, you may be surprised at how much better you feel.
First, try to decide whether your tired feeling is a physical or emotional fatigue. If you are physically tired, why? If you aren’t getting enough sleep because you stay up trying to unwind by watching TV or getting caught up on the Internet, set an alarm to help you recognize time to go to bed earlier. Work your way back from current habits to a 15 to 20-minute earlier bedtime until you find yourself waking up rested in the morning.
If you lack energy because your eating habits don’t provide lasting fuel, focus on balanced meals, with at least two-thirds of your plate each time you eat providing whole grains, vegetables and fruits. Up to one-third of your plate might include animal protein like meat, poultry or seafood; if animal protein is not your preference, then make sure you are including enough beans, nuts or other sources of protein.
We each have different natural body rhythms; some feel more energy in the morning, others later on. Try aiming for physical activity at the time when you naturally have most energy. However, maybe you’re not exhausted physically, but emotionally, from stress and trying to juggle many concerns. Start with 10 minutes of movement. After you’ve done this a few times and seen the difference it makes, remind yourself that taking 10 or 20 minutes to release stress will pay off in leaving you feeling less tired and better able to cope. If this tiredness continues, do check with your doctor, because it could be a sign of anemia or another medical or psychological problem that needs treatment to improve.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed over $100 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, http://www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.