If you're looking to ditch that afternoon latte, but you're worried about how you're going to keep upright at your desk without an extra bump of caffeine, the answer is actually pretty simple — exercise. The best workout to keep you energized throughout the day involves any kind of low-to-moderate intensity exercise that lasts longer than 20 minutes, according to a University of Georgia study published in Fatigue: Biomedicine, Health & Behavior. If you're someone who doesn't like to be told what to do, then this is totally going to be your jam because it allows you to do whatever type of fairly chill exercise you want. (That includes workouts like a walk around the block, an open-level yoga class, or a light jog or swim.)
"Decreases in fatigue symptoms were most likely to occur after low-to-moderate intensity exercise lasting longer than 20 minutes in which large increases in feelings of energy also were reported," a news release about the study reported. "The average energy boost after exercise was large enough to meaningfully improve the participant’s mood that day." In the study, most people participated in an aerobic exercise like cycling or performed weight-lifting exercises. This means you can change up your exercise routine based on what you're in the mood for on any given day.
If it's a beautiful day, opt for a run or bike ride outside. If it's cold and rainy, choose indoor weight training instead. The best part is that because regular exercise gives you more energy, the more you commit to a daily routine, the more energized you'll feel.
"When people feel tired at the end of the day, most choose sedentary pastimes like watching TV, reading, snacking, or drinking a tasty beverage that they think will refresh them,” study co-author, Rod Dishman, a professor in kinesiology, said in the news release. "They don’t realize that taking that first step to exercise can actually give them more energy, while also offsetting the health risks of those sedentary choices."
What's more, having an elevated mood from physical activity can actually make you feel more energetic. "The psychological part of exercise has been shown to directly correlate with energy levels: You feel better and feel more energy," Dr. Robert Gotlin, D.O., told Everyday Health.
This is particularly true if you get to choose the type of exercise you spend 20 minutes doing every day. If you're tired of trying one new workout after the next, and you just want to do your own thing instead of hanging upside down from a hammock, doing the exercise that makes you feel best really is the best exercise you can do. "It's not going to work if you don't like it. It's got to be something that's enjoyable that serves the aerobic goal," Gotlin said.
While there are a lot of ways to get a boost of energy, if you want an all-natch, long-term, sustainable solution, there's no getting around the three basics — eating well, sleep, and regular exercise. This doesn't mean committing to a life without fun and indulgence. It just means that taking care of yourself is the norm versus an anomaly. When you commit to doing things to take care yourself that make you feel good too, it's much easier to bounce back from a late night out without an extra latte.