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Physical Activity and Energy Levels (online only)
June 2011
By Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN

Q:    I know I should be more physically active, but I just donít have the energy.  What can I do?

A:    Itís ironic: once you get more physically active, increased fitness and improved sleep will probably leave you feeling more energetic; itís getting started thatís the energy challenge.   Have you tried to push for too much intensity or time, too quickly? Most experts encourage people to start slowly; for those who are currently sedentary, that might mean just 10 or 15 minutes at a time.  Move at a speed and intensity that donít leave you out of breath.  Aim to feel energized, not exhausted, when youíre done.  Then gradually increase your time or speed a little each week, one bit at a time.  In the DREW study of overweight, sedentary older women, even 25 minutes of modest walking for exercise three days a week was enough to significantly boost feelings of energy; those who walked for an hour three times a week increased energy even further.  Make sure your lack of energy doesnít reflect eating too few calories Ė either in total for the day or in the two hours before your activity.  Increasing activity doesnít mean you can eat unlimited calories, but donít let weight loss goals push you to cut calories so much you have no energy.  If your meals or snacks consist mostly of sweets or refined grains like muffins or pretzels that give you a short-lived rise in blood sugar followed by a crash, that could also explain your lack of energy.  See if you feel more like walking after a balanced meal that includes a vegetable and/or fruit, whole grains, and beans, poultry or other lean protein.  Finally, if youíre chronically low on energy, talk with your doctor since this may be a sign of anemia, a thyroid disorder, medication side effect or another health problem that can be treated.

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 more than $91 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, www.aicr.org. AICR is part of the global network of charities that are dedicated to the prevention of cancer. The WCRF global network is led and unified by WCRF International, a membership association which operates as the umbrella organization for the network .The other charities in the WCRF network are World Cancer Research Fund in the UK (www.wcrf-uk.org); Wereld Kanker Onderzoek Fonds in the Netherlands (www.wcrf-nl.org); World Cancer Research Fund Hong Kong (www.wcrf-hk.org); and Fonds Mondial de Recherche contre le Cancer in France (www.fmrc.fr).


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