Maximizing energy:exercise ratio.
October 14, 2012 9:00 PM   Subscribe

What kind of exercises should I be doing to get more energy throughout the day?

I'm interested in the most time-cost efficient way, so to speak, to increase my baseline energy level throughout the day by engaging in regular exercises.

So exactly what kind of exercises should I be doing? Sprints? Slow jogging? Biking? Maybe picking up a sport of some kind? Jumping jacks? (My only exercise right now is walking 30mins per day, and once in a blue moon I jog a little bit.)

Factors of consideration in order of most important to least important include:
1) time investment - I have long work hours and don't have a lot of time to devote to this, mostly just nights (7pm+) and weekends.
2) people factor - would prefer something I can do alone, like jogging.
3) money investment - I currently don't have access to specialized equipment or a gym, but would be willing to invest in this front if reasons are sufficiently convincing.

The more specific the better!
posted by dragonfruit to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
Jump rope is great. From what I hear anything that engages your arms and legs will really get you body's energy levels going. Not to mention that it puts a spring in your step. But it takes practice.
posted by Napierzaza at 9:52 PM on October 14, 2012

Best answer: If your primary goal is to have more energy throughout the day, I would aim for splitting your exercise into smaller, more frequent sessions. For example:

1. Get out of bed - use this time to do a full body stretch. Reach up as high as you can, then bend down and try to touch your toes. Hang there for a count of at least 8. Do a lunge with each leg to stretch out your groin muscles. Maybe do a side bend on each side. This will take maybe two minutes. Alternately, you could do the sun salutation to stretch everything out.

2. Depending on what type of work you do, you may want to put in short spurts of aerobic activity. If you have your own office, close the door and do five jumping jacks, five push ups and five sit ups (or whatever you can do without too much noise or too much wrinkling of your suit) every two and half hours, or so. If you're in cubical land, get up and go up and down a flight of stairs, or walk around the building, or whatever is appropriate in your workplace.

3. Sign up for a weekly physical commitment. This may be a martial art, physical trainer meeting, rock climbing, dance.. anything that is interesting and meets at a specific day and time.

4. Set a flexible goal for a physical activity on the weekends. You may decide to go jogging every weekend, or one weekend you may play a game of ultimate frisbee with your friends, the next weekend you go for a hike, the weekend after you rearrange all of your furniture and decide the couch was heavier than the weights at the gym and you've met your goal.

If you prefer a stricter approach, something like couch to 5K may work for you as well.

Basically, you should aim to have a mix of stretching, aerobic, and strength training throughout your week.
posted by valoius at 10:05 PM on October 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

For what you're asking for, my vote would have to go to strength training. In the moment, I prefer running, but after lifting I just feel great for the next few days. These days, I aim for about 2 45-minute sessions/week, although I've done okay with 25 minute sessions too. Two of my favorite quotes on this topic are:
"Bodybuilding is the sport you wear." - Bill Pearl
"We're going to work those important muscles that make you look good." - Greg Smithey

Strength training can get a bit narcissistic, but feeling good about how you look can be a good shortcut to having more energy. The looks aspect of strength training can also lead to more attention to other positives like getting enough sleep.

Start out at either the most convenient gym or the cheapest gym you can find. Convenience will increase the likelihood of sticking with a program, which is paramount. On the money side, price can vary wildly. Right now, I pay $14/month for a community-center gym, but the city I used to live in had free gyms. Neither situation was "classy," but both got the job done. My bother-in-law likes Snap Fitness and it is pretty cheap too.

If you want to mix in some time-efficient cardio, interval training (hard/easy/hard/easy...) is the way to go.

If you opt for running or strength training, I would recommend rest days to recover. Like lift Mon/Wed, run Tue/Thu.

FWIW I loooove running too. A lot. Getting into it can just easily gobble up tons of time.
posted by eelgrassman at 10:19 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Time efficient exercise? That's a no brainer: commute to work by bike! The ride to work in the morning wakes you up and gives you energy for the day. The ride home in the evening helps you de-stress and gives you an appetite for your evening meal. By the time you go to bed, you feel mentally great but physically tired and heavy, as though you'd been exercising all day. The tiredness means you sleep solidly through the night and awake refreshed the next day; ready to do it all again. If you live within, say, 20km of your job, you'll spend less time commuting by bike than you would by driving and stopping off at the gym. And there's something about exercising twice a day that really gets the endorphins flowing.
posted by embrangled at 10:56 PM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: There are minimalist weight lifting programs like Starting Strength and StrongLifts 5x5.

You could complete Stronglifts with one minute rest periods, and without assistance exercises, in about twenty minutes. That's three days a week (Mon, Wed, Fri).

On your off days you could do tabata intervals on a stationary bike (post on the blue). Including a warm up/warm down period with your intervals (of say five minutes each), it should take less than 15 minutes.
posted by ollyollyoxenfree at 1:36 AM on October 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Seconding lifting. My energy levels have tripled since I added weights to my regular mix of cycling and yoga.
posted by third word on a random page at 2:08 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's maybe not what you're looking for, and is a bit silly, but I do it every day - a very vigorous drying-off with towel after a shower. It's maybe 1-2 minutes, is extremely easy to integrate into your routine, gets you moving, and has the added effect of being a mini-massage.
posted by Pieprz at 3:11 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The recommendations here cover the ground that I have explored trying to cram some activity into my desk bound working life. I think they are very good recommendations.

I've also moved to a stand up desk, which has been fantastic. I took a while to build the strength to do it all day, all week. I think squats and deadlifts played a big part in my developing the required stamina. My experience has been that not only do I feel much better, but I am also working more productively.

I work in a business with a fairly conservative culture, so I wasn't sure how the stand up desk would be received. After some experimentation I was able to make a box which sat on my desk which raised the height of the work surface to the right height. I came into work early and set it up before anyone got in. I felt it was best to ask for forgiveness rather than permission. I constructed the box from materials that matched the office decor. If it didn't look too out of place, it seemed there would be less for anyone to complain about.

Fortunately I have a large L shaped desk with a section facing the wall, so I can stand up without looking over the cubicle partition into anyone's space

To move from the stand up desk I only need to move my monitor/ mouse / keyboard so it was possible to begin by standing only a few hours a day.

HR/building services were a little confused and concerned, but I passed on a vague "it's for my back"
via my manager, that seemed to erase all concerns that something strange was going on.
posted by compound eye at 3:14 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I like jumping jacks. A few sets of 20 get me pumped up.
posted by bilabial at 5:25 AM on October 15, 2012

Seconding bike to work if it's feasible. Or run all or part of the way. When I'm organised enough to do it, biking in first thing leaves me more awake through the day than anything else. I've just started running a 5K stretch of my homeward journey once or twice a week, and there's something very satisfying about every step getting me closer to home, and about covering ground that I'd otherwise be covering anyway on the bus. It actually takes about the same amount of time as the bus too.
posted by penguin pie at 6:21 AM on October 15, 2012

I bike to work, and it's great, but maybe because it's only a few miles, it doesn't give me the same energy that intense exercise does. So: HIIT. Doesn't take long and gets your heart rate way up. You can do it with sprints, with bike sprints, swim sprints. Personally, I'd mix in some strength training, and so something like bootcamp class might be a good mixture for all day energy.

Warning: doing a lot of HIIT at first may make you more tired. Train your way into any exercise by starting gently!
posted by ldthomps at 8:25 AM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Loose weight. It's not an exercise but carrying extra pounds on every step is incredibly energy sapping.
posted by srboisvert at 9:06 AM on October 15, 2012

Best answer: I recommend going for a jog after work. I'm sure you'll be tired after a long day, but start slow, even with just a few minutes and then build yourself up to a longer amount of time and distance. It's what I used to do in college after really long days and it definitely increased my energy levels.
posted by stonecutters88 at 5:40 PM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

T'ai chi. Take a drop-in class and afterwards ask your instructor exactly this question. She will likely recommend some "gathering" movements to start and possibly several Yang-type movements. Do them every day, or when you feel like your energy is dipping. I assume you're looking for more mental energy to get through the day in addition to physical energy, yes? Because this isn't exactly what I'd recommend if you need the energy to get through your 60-hour work week as a chef or drywall installer.
posted by katya.lysander at 5:08 PM on October 16, 2012

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