Energising Exercises

by PJ Wren

Energising Exercises

Feeling tired just thinking about all your obligations? Energise yourself with our fatigue-banishing yoga exercises.

Fatigue. Nothing an extra-large dark roast coffee can’t beat, right? While that may be what some of us reach for to help us cope with stressful and exhausting times in our lives, experts propose a different solution. They suggest exercise, and you may be surprised at how little you need to feel the positive effects.

Exercise menu board

If exercise were sold in your local coffee shop, the menu board would likely read something like, “20 minutes of low-intensity exercise—the perfect blend of expending energy to create energy. Lightly blended, with just a hint of sweat, and 100% natural.”

Twenty minutes, three times a week—that’s all it took participants in a study published in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics to feel less fatigued and more energised.

In another analysis, researchers pored over 70 different studies done on exercise and fatigue, and found that more than 90 per cent of these studies showed that sedentary people who participate in a regular fitness program experience an increase in energy levels.

Energy begets energy

While exercise may seem like the last thing that you want to do when exhausted, there is no denying that energy begets energy.

When my clients don’t want to exercise I like to tell them to make a deal with themselves beforehand: tell their “inner naysayer” that if, after 10 minutes of exercising, they still want to curl up in the foetal position, to give themselves the out and head back to the couch. However, in the 20 years that I’ve been telling people this, no one has ever stopped after 10 minutes.

Why? Because starting is the hardest part. Once you begin, the effects of exercise—including increased blood flow, quickened heart rate, intensified breathing and the release of endorphins (our happy hormones) and dopamine (our pleasure hormones)—make us feel alive, awake, enthused and ready to take on the day again.

What type of exercise?

It doesn’t take intense running or cycling to reap exercise’s energy-boosting rewards; something as simple as a 20-minute walk can turn things around, energy- and mood-wise. Walk as often as you can, and if the weather permits it, take your walk outside. Nature is connected to our health; being cooped up in an office or your home over the winter months can deepen feelings of fatigue and even depression, whereas being in nature can boost our moods.

However, just about any exercise will do the trick to offset your fatigue. Whether it’s aerobic and gets your heart rate up (such as jogging or swimming), gentle (such as a hatha yoga or tai chi class) or anaerobic (such as weight training), each will give you the relief that we crave from caffeine, but with a plethora of health benefits.

Simple tips to fight fatigue

Drink water

One of the symptoms of dehydration is tiredness. Although everyone is slightly different, a general guideline is to start your day with a glass of water and then aim for about 8 to 10 cups thereafter. One trick that I recommend (and use) is to wrap three coloured elastic bands around the bottom of your water bottle. Every time you finish a bottle and refill it, push one of the bands to the top of the bottle. This will give you a visual throughout the day of whether you are drinking your recommended intake of water.

Move your body

If you want to fight fatigue, 20 minutes of exercise three times a week has been shown to increase energy levels. However, to maintain better health, prevent weight gain and keep the heart and lungs healthy, the Australian Department of Health recommends four steps to better health, including a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity most days, even combining shorter sessions of 10 to 15 minutes, with some additional regular vigorous activity for extra fitness.

Consider supplements

Naturopathic doctor Heli McPhie recommends to her patients vitamins C and B complex to help support adrenal function during the coming winter months (the adrenals enable our bodies to deal with stress), ashwaganda to help support sleep and Siberian ginseng as a gentle energy tonic. Always check with your health care practitioner to make sure a supplement is right for you.


Deep breathing and meditation have been shown to aid in reducing stress levels, which in turn will help combat fatigue. All are easier said than done, though. Start with baby steps—find a quiet area in your home and sit comfortably for five minutes, with your eyes closed, simply focusing on your breathing. ‡

Fatigue-fighting yoga poses

Yoga poses energise the body from the inside out, making yoga one of the best forms of exercise to fight fatigue.

Downward Dog

This inversion pose will strengthen and revive the body.

  • Begin on your hands and knees, fingers wide and pointed straight ahead.
  • On a deep exhale, tuck your toes under and press your hips up and back while straightening your legs and arms. Your body should look like an upside-down “V.”
  • Relax your head between your arms, directing your gaze through your legs.
  • Hold for 4 to 5 breaths.
Downward Dog

Warrior 1

Warrior poses work all the larger muscles of the lower body, creating a greater need for blood flow and energy to those areas.

  • From Downward Dog (see previous exercise), look up to your right thumb while lifting your right heel up towards the sky, then step forwards, meeting your right foot to your right thumb.
  • Move your right knee so it’s directly above your ankle and slide your back foot out so that the toes are facing the long end of the mat.
  • Ground your feet into the floor and, on a deep inhale, lift your torso up off the ground, extending your arms straight up above your head. Your arms should be shoulder-width apart, palms facing each other, with your shoulder blades lengthening down your back.
  • Gently tilt your head so you’re looking up at your hands.
  • You should be performing what looks like a lunge with your arms above you and your back foot grounded. Hold for 4 to 5 breaths, then go back to Downward Dog and perform Warrior 1 with your left leg forwards.
Warrior 1

Wide Stance Spinal Twist

Twists are thought to be stimulating and detoxifying, making this gentle spinal pose the perfect addition to your exercise routine.

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground, mat-width apart.
  • Position your arms in a “T” position, lined up with the shoulders, palms facing up.
  • Slowly drop both knees to your right side while your head rotates in the opposite direction.
  • Hold for 4 to 5 breaths, then repeat on the other side.
Spinal Twist


Elevating your legs is very therapeutic. In yoga it’s often done to help relax, aid insomnia and relieve sore legs.

  • Lie in front of a wall and place your legs straight up on it.
  • Walk your sit bones towards the wall until you feel a gentle stretch in the back of your thighs or until your bum touches the wall—whatever comes first.
  • Relax your arms by your sides.
  • Tuck your chin in, towards your chest, so that the back of your neck is longer than the front.
  • There should be no effort or strain in this pose. Hold for 5 to 15 minutes.
Legs up the Wall

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