My Portion: Exergize

by Jenn (eating bender) on August 29, 2008

I have often wondered how it is possible for me to feel tired after a day of sitting in a cubicle, but somehow feel energized after a day of nonstop activity. I knew there was a scientific explanation behind this question, and with a little searching on WebMD, I was able to come up with an answer.

As it turns out, there is something to be said about Newton’s First Law of Motion when applied to our bodies: an object at rest will stay at rest unless acted on by an outside force. If we are sitting in a chair all day long, our bodies possess the ability to recognize this relaxed state and “shut down” accordingly. As one exercise physiologist points out over at WebMD, our bodies are made to be in motion. But in a society where “convenience” is the word of the day, everyday, it can be hard to put this seemingly obvious necessity – aka movement – into practice.

I spent the summer completing an internship that was a wonderful working experience, but required me to spend the majority of my waking hours8:30 am to 5:30 pm, Monday through Friday – in a relatively sedentary position. I was unable to wake up early to work out because of the time constraints of a campus gym. And every day, by the time 5:30 pm rolled around, the last thing I wanted to do was head to the gym. In fact, I even started to begrudge my nighttime workouts – a position I have never been in before, and really never want to be in again!

As I enter into my senior year of college, I have begun the job hunting process, looking for positions that I may enter into and stick with for several years into the future. Unfortunately, these jobs do not give me the luxury of moving around all day – they, too, are relatively sedentary.

Therefore time is of the essence. I must figure out some way to keep my energy level screaming, “up and at ’em!” and avoid getting stuck in the same energy rut I found myself in this summer.

I already know that exercise = energy. But when I’m not exergizingor creating my own words – I need to know what else I should be doing to keep myself fueled and feeling my best.

After doing some research, I have developed a list of the Top Five Ways to Jump Start Your Body. I picture it this way: if the human body is like a car, these five tips are the gas that keeps the engine running.

Fill your tank with fruit and fiber. “I like to eat, eat, eat – apples and bananas.”

I miss my childhood.

Anyway, fruits such as apples and bananas have so many essential vitamins and minerals, and the fiber content provides much needed sustenance. While it may be true that any and all carbohydrates will turn into glucose for energy, it’s the carbohydrates from fruit that will give energy without taking it away later.

Eat, eat, eat…then sleep, sleep, sleep!

Getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night will keep the body on track from day to day. I’ve also learned that it’s best to develop a specific sleep/wake pattern and stick to it like glue – even on the weekends. Staying up or sleeping late may seem like a good idea at the time, but it may cause trouble on Sunday night and Monday morning, throwing the body off schedule at the very beginning of the week. No me gusta.

Guzzle up water like your tank guzzles up gas…and your $$$.

Dehydration plays a big role in fatigue and drops in energy levels. The age old recommendation of 8 glasses of water a day – or 64 oz. – is a good one, but if you’re exercising, it may be a good idea to take in even more. Other suggestions I’ve heard are to drink anywhere from 1/2 to 2/3 of your weight in ounces of water. But don’t limit yourself – if you’re thirsty, drink up and say cheers to your health!

Just breathe.

When life comes at you fast and stress levels start shooting through the ceiling, take a step back and focus on making sure to breathe. Close your eyes and focus on inhaling and exhaling fully, paying extra attention to the air as it goes in and out of your body. Research shows that too much shallow breathing can hinder endurance and send the body into exhaustion mode.

Don’t forget to laugh.

photo courtesy of

Laughter releases endorphins, which, like exercise, provide stimulation for the body. It also keeps us from being bored, and is just plain fun :) Next time you laugh, make sure it’s one of those hearty belly laughs that leaves you with a smile plastered to your face :mrgreen: Just like Mr. Green!

There are, I’m sure, many other ways to boost energy. I know that I could personally benefit from hearing what YOU have to say on the topic. I’ve included some starter questions below, but feel free to add on to my list with your own thoughts and opinions. Let’s get “exergized” together!


1. What do you do to keep your energy level at its highest?

2. If you have a sedentary job, what are your tips for staying active?

1 Kristie August 29, 2008 at 1:38 am

Loving the tips. Especially the last one :)

As for your questions, in terms of energy, I think I have my greatest energy when I’ve gotten a good night’s sleep, or several of them, as well as fit in a good exercise session during the day, or been active all day. Unfortunately I haven’t been doing enough of these things lately…

And on the job front, I only work at my sedentary job one day a week so I don’t really have many good tips, but on that one day I do try the whole NEAT deal (Nonexercise activity thermogenesis) and try to “fidget” or so to speak at the desk a lot, just by tapping my hands, feet etc a lot. And yes, I do it on purpose. I also try to get up and walk around a lot, making sure to take multiple trips up and down the stairs any opportunity I get. Anything to get moving really.

2 Erica August 29, 2008 at 5:09 am

Hey! Yes, work often makes me want to go to sleep as well :) Fit Bottomed Girls had tips out a few weeks ago talking about mini work workouts that keep you going through the day. I thought they were great tips on how to get a little exercise mid day but even better for waking your body up!

3 Christie I. August 29, 2008 at 7:03 am

Thanks for the tips, I need to put some of those into practice. Lately, I have not been feeling well at all with my allergy issues and have been generally wiped out.

4 Erin August 29, 2008 at 7:04 am

What an awesome post Jenn! I have to run all over campus all day, but when I’m just sitting at my desk for hours on end, I make sure I get up every hour and stretch, do jumping jacks, hit the stairs, etc. All because I read that circulation brings energy back.

I can totally relate to being tired after sitting at work all day. Those are the days it’s hard to get to the gym, but probably the days I need it most!

To keep my energy level high, I eat a lot, drink lotsa water, get my extrovert needs fulfilled, and drink up to 200 mg of caffeine a day. I also change what I’m doing a lot because I get bored fast.

I’m definitely not a sleeper. I could probably work on this but I get about five hours a night and that seems to work.

Thanks for such an informative post! You’re such a rockin’ blog sister! :)

5 Erin August 29, 2008 at 7:05 am

P.S. Question for you – do you get less tired/bored when you have different activities, or do you do better focusing for long periods of time?

6 Christie August 29, 2008 at 7:13 am

Fidgeting is a great way to work on having energy.. even twirling your hair or moving your legs… it burns calories and keeps youmoving… When i dont work out I move more in that way or I will make more trips up and down the stairs etc.

I am also motivated when I think abotu other people who inspire me, who are working moms or who are people I work out with and it motivates me to be moving or not feel so lazy!

7 Natalie August 29, 2008 at 7:22 am

Loved the tips! I sit at a desk all day but make a point to walk nearly every single for about 20-30 minutes. It’s a great way to give your brain a rest and get your blood flowing. I’m always so much more able to concentrate afterwards.

I also totally agree with the sleeping tip…I wake up at 5 every day to work out before getting to work at 7. While I don’t wake up at 5 on the weekends, I try to still get up bright and early and get moving right away…it makes Monday morning a hundred times better!

8 caitlin (see bride run) August 29, 2008 at 7:40 am

i do ass squeezes at my desk! LOL

9 Rose August 29, 2008 at 8:15 am

This is an amazing post – and comes at a really timely point in my life. I loved every word – thank you so much for this insightfulness.

I have had a sedentary job for the past year, and unfortunately, I don’t think that’s going to change due to my field. I have a few little tips that I’ve been doing that I think are helping:

1) I drink a lot of water, so I have to go to the bathroom often – which means a walk around the office every hour or even twice an hour…
2) I try and get outside for at least 15 minutes and just walk around. I haven’t been able to do that yet with my new job – but once I am better handling everything, I will. If you have a job with an hour lunch break, use it to walk!
3) Take the steps instead of the elevator. It generally saves me time and gives me a boost.
4) Accept that your body might change. Since I graduated, my weight is now shifting to other parts of my body due to the sitting. This is something I’m trying to deal with, but I try hard not to stress over it. I just keep telling myself – I am becoming more of a grown woman. And I keep pushing myself to do work out at least 5 days a week to offset any changes the sitting causes.
5) I also try to have a snack very late in the day (around 4:30) so it will power me through the commute + workout or workout + commute. I don’t want to go home starving because I know I won’t exercise (this is if you can’t do it in the AM)

The working world is tough. I want to go back to college…

10 VeggieGirl August 29, 2008 at 8:30 am

This reminds me a little bit of what you and I were talking about yesterday afternoon (about our busy days and everything). Despite the whirlwind of activity that I do (with barely any sitting, except to eat, haha), I feel energized; and when I can’t move around (i.e. long car trips!! ick), I feel exhausted.

THAT VIDEO CLIP IS AMAZING!!! So funny; and a blast from the past 😀


11 Fit Bottomed Girls August 29, 2008 at 8:56 am

Great tips! And I love applying the First Law of Motion. It makes perfect sense, and I’d never thought of it this way!

I have a desk job and I highly suggest getting up every 30 minutes to an hour to do something. Just walking to the water fountain or to talk to a co-worker versus picking up the phone or sending an e-mail can do wonders. Otherwise you forget that feet were made for walking! 😉

12 Foodie (Fab and Delicious Food) August 29, 2008 at 9:16 am

Great post! Not sure if I have any tips, so I’m glad everyone else is chiming in and can’t wait to read more responses.

Love the pic of the kittens at the end!

13 chandra August 29, 2008 at 9:48 am

Great post, Jenn!! I have a desk job (for now!) and I just made some little changes to help get activity into my day like using a smaller water jug so I have to get up to re-fill it more often, I drink a lot of water so I have to get up and pee alot – lol, and I listen to my iPod and tap my feet or kind of ‘chair dance” a little too. :) haha and sometimes I sneak off to the bathroom and do some jumping jacks or fake jump rope. I just make sure I get up from my desk AT LEAST once every hour to get water or go to the bathroom or something.

Also, once I finally got used to the routine, doing morning cardio really gets me going for the day! On days when I don’t get even a tiny AM workout in I just feel tired and the day drags!

14 Sarah August 29, 2008 at 11:04 am

Great post and great tips! I agree 100% with all you said—when I’m sedentary I’m definitely less energized than when I get in some sort of workout.

I really think that a morning workout keeps me energized throughout the day. I like getting it out of the way so that I can be productive during the day and RELAX at night. Also I think that exercising in the morning really helps me eat healthily throughout the day. It’s really bizarre but on days that I don’t exercise I’m actually HUNGRIER! Well, I don’t know if I’m necessarily hungrier but I definitely eat more and always have the need to snack/munch.

Luckily I didn’t have a sedentary job this summer, but there have been plenty of days at school that I’ve spend in the library ALL DAY. Some little tricks I do to stay energized is take little breaks to walk around and stretch. Also, I always use the furthest restroom from where I am. I do this at home too! If I’m upstairs I’ll go to the bathroom downstairs or vice-versa. It’s just a little thing but I figure the extra steps can’t hurt!

15 melissaeats August 29, 2008 at 11:59 am

Jenn, can I ask what you’re going to school for or what you’ll be doing? Just curious…

I unfortunately spend my whole day sitting at work as well :( To make matters worse, I’m on the phone and cannot leave my desk except for lunch and 2 – 15 minute breaks!! I try to walk on my breaks (and lunch) whenever possible, but find it so hard to find a way to move being tied to my phone! I’m looking for ideas as well!

16 eatingbirdfood August 29, 2008 at 12:20 pm

Great post! I totally agree with sedentary jobs decreasing your energy. When I was working, it was 8:30-5:30 at a computer desk so I would make sure to go outside during my one hour lunch break and walk at least 20 minutes. I would also get up from the desk and walk to ask people in the office questions rather than email them. Sometimes for a break I would go in the bathroom and stretch for a bit as well.

17 WeightingGame August 29, 2008 at 12:50 pm

i’m a freelance writer and force myself to get up every hour and stretch…hardly that much activity, but because of the freedom of my job, I have a few extra hours in the day to go for walks or hit the gym. When I did work in an office, I always brought my packed gym bag to work b/c I knew if I headed home, I’d never want to leave that night. Also, we had yoga at lunch if we wanted – only about 4 or 5 of us (our of 1000s) would go, but it was a great break/way to inject some exercise!

18 Toni August 29, 2008 at 2:52 pm

On the weeks when my job is more like “sitting-at-the-computer-making-spreadsheets”, I’ve been going to 30 minute walks at lunch. It’s just a little bit extra but it seems to help break up the day. Of course, once winter hits in Massachusetts I’m going to have to come up with something else!

19 HeatherBakes August 29, 2008 at 3:26 pm

Oh man, you are so right about the sedentary desk jobs. I usually tried to eat lunch while working and then took my lunch break to “mall walk” (aka, shopping) or walk outside when the weather was nice. Also just making sure to walk to other offices to chat rather than calling. High protein snacks helped keep me awake, too.

20 wholefoodswholeme August 29, 2008 at 4:10 pm

this is so interesting – and i completely agree, being still does make you feel much more lethargic and tired than being active. i play piano for hours everyday and even though i’m moving, i still feel it’s quite sedentary sometimes. i think that when i do some good, working-up-a-sweat exercise at some point in the day (earlier the better) that energy boost keeps me upplifted all day long.

21 Karla August 29, 2008 at 5:11 pm

My new class schedule is pretty crammed in, but I find that I must workout before class if I want to get it in. I totally agree that working all day makes you tired! It has to be all that concentrating :)

I don’t really have any new tips (my ideas have all been listed above) but I am starting my first official desk job next Monday! My new workplace has a gym, so maybe I can squeeze in a lunchtime workout.

Sometimes wearing a pedometer can inspire you to walk more than you otherwise would–which can be good if you don’t have time to fit in a workout. Simply taking a few laps around the floor or walking to talk to someone rather than e-mailing can help!

22 Grounded Fitness August 29, 2008 at 6:28 pm

i always wondered that too!! thanks for the explaination!!

23 Miss White Skirt August 29, 2008 at 6:28 pm

hi Jen, i have to say, I love the variety of categories in your blog! different things to look forward to each post. and you’re a great writer :)

annnd… I think this is my favorite yet of your ‘Portions’! I so get the whole sedentary/exhaustion active/energized dilemma. and I’ve thought about how it all corresponds to Newton’s Law too! For me that law applies to so much in my life – I can get started and I can keep going and going, but then if I somehow get stuck I am STUCK!

it’s like pushing a heavy ball up a hill – each inch to reach the top is like a small little change you can make – walking around for a few minutes, writing an outline for a paper – and then soon enough all those little efforts add up and you’re cruising along in “motion” mode :) hehe.

I’m all for just random movement if you’re stuck in a sedentary position. jump up to grab something, pace, walk or stand while on the phone. I notice when I make an effort to do that I’m more productive as well.

this is totally long! thanks for such a great post!!!!

24 Katie August 29, 2008 at 9:57 pm

I make up my own words too :)

To keep my energy up, I move around as much as I can and focus on little things around me – this helps me to become more self-aware which often wakes me up. I stretch in the morning sometimes which also helps.

I don’t have a sedentary job, but my 7hr. days at school are pretty sedentary. 2.5 hrs. of volleyball after school (I made the team!) has helped with my energy level a lot. Eating protein boosts my energy, too.

25 eatingbender August 30, 2008 at 12:48 am

To all ~ Great tips, everyone! Thank you so much for sharing :) I am still amazed by all the amazing feedback I receive on these My Portion posts. I will certainly be taking all of your ideas and applying them to my daily routine!

To answer some specific questions for me…

Erin ~ I definitely enjoy having a lot of different activities, but really appreciate being able to focus on those activities for a long period of time. When I have periods with nothing to do, I get bored so easily!!

melissaeats ~ I’m studying broadcast journalism and business at school. But when I get out, I think I’m going to pursue a career in marketing or PR! And I would love to find a way to combine health and nutrition with those fields…now the problem is figuring out HOW :)

26 Julz August 30, 2008 at 8:53 am

Your the bestest ever, Bends… Every post is even better than the last!!!!

27 HangryPants August 30, 2008 at 12:31 pm

Great post, Jenn!

This is really helpful to me right now because I don’t think I am going to be able to workout in the mornings like I prefer doing while student teacher. After a long day with the students the last thing I feel like doing is running or exercising so it was helpful to read this and everyone’s comments, too.



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