As people age, they lose energy. Genetics, health conditions, and environmental factors can deteriorate muscle mass over time. As hormones shift and lifestyle habits change, adults may struggle to keep up with the everyday hustle and bustle. But there are ways to get your energy back.
Do naps help or harm your energy? Is there an ideal exercise you should be doing? Can doing chores improve your vitality? All of these questions are answered here. Learn how to gain more energy as an older adult.
A “Sugar High” Leads To A Crash
If you’re struggling with your energy levels, re-examine how much sugar you’re eating. According to recent research in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, a “sugar high” actually does more harm than good. After analyzing 31 studies, scientists found that a high-sugar diet leads to fatigue, a low mood, and reduced alertness.
“If anything, sugar consumption might make people more tired and less alert shortly after its consumption,” says lead study author Konstantinos Mantantzis. Check the ingredients of processed foods, as they often sneak in added sugar.
Exercise, Even When You Don’t Want To
When you’re feeling tired, exercise is probably the last thing you want to do. But you should. “More than 90% of the studies showed the same thing,” says researcher Patrick O’Connor. “Sedentary people who completed a regular exercise program reported improved fatigue compared to groups that did not exercise.”
Regular workouts can improve your mind, too. In 2016, a study in the Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity found that exercise increases concentration and memory. Even a brief walk can enhance your energy levels.
Are You Getting Enough Sleep?
It seems obvious: sleep well and feel more energized. But one-third of adults have insomnia, and peoples’ risk increases as they age. This can destroy your energy levels, but Johns Hopkins sleep expert Dr. Rachel Salas has some tips for catching some shut-eye.
First, stick to a regular sleep schedule. Develop a nighttime routine that relaxes you before bed. Don’t drink or eat too late at night, and ensure that you’ll get at least seven hours of sleep. That should help you gain more energy.
Are You Drinking Too Much Coffee?
Caffeine gives you energy, right? According to research, it depends on how much you drink. In 2005, scientists gave participants different amounts of coffee to drink each day. After a week, people who consumed little coffee experienced a cortisol spike. Meanwhile, those who frequently drank 600 mg of caffeine had lower cortisol.
In short, people who drink a lot of coffee are more likely to feel tired after consuming caffeine. The beverage messes with your hormone levels, which is where “caffeine tolerance” comes from. If coffee no longer works for you, cut back on it.
Skipping breakfast has consequences. According to clinical dietitian Christy C. Tangney, skipping breakfast results in mental fuzziness and lower energy throughout the day. After not eating all night, your body lacks glycogen. This type of glucose creates energy, says Cleveland Clinic.
Ensure that your breakfast has protein and healthy carbohydrates. Beware of yogurts and granola bars that have added sugar, which will crash your energy later in the day. Eggs, avocado toast, oatmeal, and protein-packed smoothies make good choices.
There Is No “Ideal” Exercise
You don’t have to lift weights or enroll in a spin class for better energy. “Doing anything that you love to do and will do is the best exercise, whether it be an outdoor activity or indoors,” says Kathy Caiello, an advanced exercise specialist.
Whether it’s yoga, running, swimming, or gardening, a bit of exercise helps. Research in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that ten minutes of exercise can lengthen your lifespan. And you’ll feel invigorated afterward!
If You Nap, Do It Right
For some people, naps make them more tired. But research shows that, if you do it right, naps can lend you a burst of energy. For instance, a study in the journal Sleep found that a ten-minute nap was all participants needed to feel invigorated.
Dr. Robert Oexman, the sleep director of the Sleep to Live Institute, recommends keeping your naps under 30 minutes. Schedule them for early afternoon, between noon and 2:00 p.m. At this time, our circadian rhythm makes us naturally drowsy, and it won’t interfere with sleep later.
Get More Sunshine
Low levels of vitamin D are linked to fatigue. During a 2014 study, 77% of participants who suffered from fatigue had low vitamin D levels. Correcting their vitamin D intake improved their energy levels slightly, says North American Journal of Medical Sciences.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, researchers can’t agree on what “adequate” vitamin D levels are. If you’re concerned, ask your doctor for a screening. You may be prescribed vitamin D supplements, or simply advised to get more sunshine.
Talk To Your Doctor About Vitamins
Sometimes, fatigue can result from a lack of certain nutrients. Vitamin B12, iron, and magnesium can lower energy levels if you don’t consume enough. Talk to your doctor before taking these, as some can interfere with medications or harm the body if over-consumed.
In this age group, it is especially important to get additional vitamin D, B vitamins, and often iron and magnesium,” says Dr. Arielle Levitan, the cofounder of Vous Vitamin. Make sure you’re getting enough energy-boosting nutrients.
Do Your Chores
Washing the dishes, doing laundry, vacuuming–all of these count as light exercise in research. A study in Jama Network Open found that light exercise improves brain volume. The result is sharper focus, better memory, and more energy.
Also, performing housework can keep your brain young. In 2019, research in Neurology found that performing household chores delayed the onset of dementia in participants. There’s no downside to getting your chores done, especially as you age.
Schedule Your Meals Strategically
Not only does your diet affect your energy, but also when you eat. Experts recommend eating small, frequent meals rather than occasional large meals. “It is very important to maintain a normal blood sugar, and the best way to accomplish this is to eat every few hours,” explains nutrition researcher Dan Benardot.
Smaller meals, especially at lunch, regulate your insulin and glucose levels to keep you energized. If you get too full, you may feel sluggish. Intermittent fasting may help people who struggle with meal timing.
Mix Up Your Protein Sources
Although protein creates energy, relying on just one type of protein can be detrimental. In 2012, a study in Osteoporosis International found that eating meat all the time may deteriorate muscle mass. However, further research in Nature Metabolism noted that too many protein powders lead to weight gain and depression.
For the best energy, muscle growth, and mood, vary your protein sources. Try lentil soup, fish stir fry, or a tofu rice bowl every once in a while. Plus, you’ll get to try new meals.
Even Mild Dehydration Hurts
Although water is essential for human functioning, only 4% of people are aware of how much water they drink, according to a 2015 survey. Research suggests that even mild dehydration–losing 1% to 2% of the body’s water–can influence energy levels.
“Dehydration can manifest as fatigue or low energy, so staying hydrated will help prevent that,” explains registered dietitian Rima Kleiner. If your urine appears bright yellow, you need to drink more water. Pale yellow or clear urine indicates that you’re doing fine.
If Fatigue Interrupts Your Life, See A Doctor
Occasional bouts of fatigue are common. But if you have low energy even after adequate sleep, feel unmotivated, or struggle to perform everyday tasks, you should see a doctor, says Dr. Howard LeWine, of Harvard Men’s Health Watch. It could be a physical condition, medication, or depression.
As you age, it becomes essential to attend an annual physical exam. Doctors will re-examine your medications and adjust them as needed. If you feel fatigued, you may want to bring it up then.
Smell Some Essential Oils
Essential oil aromatherapy has some science-backed results. In 2017, a small study revealed that smelling peppermint oil relieves fatigue after exercise. Earlier research suggests that sweet orange and spearmint oils may enhance energy, says the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
Remember that only aromatherapy yields these benefits. Be careful handling these oils, as they can damage the skin, and never ingest them. You only need to diffuse the oils and smell them for an energy boost.
Think About Your Partner
If you have a significant other, thinking about them can help you manage stress. According to a study in Psychophysiology, imagining consolation from your partner lowers blood pressure and heart rate. If your stress is robbing you of energy, try this trick.
“It appears that thinking of your partner as a source of support can be just as powerful as actually having them present,” says Kyle Bourassa, the lead study author. It can do wonders.
Let The Light In
Our bodies have a circadian rhythm, an internal clock that tells us when to sleep and when to wake up. According to Sleep Medicine Clinics, light greatly contributes to the circadian rhythm. If your room is dark, your body will want to sleep. When it’s light out, the body will wake up.
Use light’s influence to your advantage. When you wake up, turn on the lights or open the curtains. While getting ready for bed, turn down the lights. You’ll get better sleep at night and more energy during the day.
Although some people think that a drink or two will help them sleep, that’s not true. Harvard Health Publishing claims that regular drinking may account for 10% of all insomnia cases. It interferes with the body’s metabolism, interrupting blood sugar production and energy levels.
According to the NIAA, studies say that drinking can make you drowsy. However, it disrupts the body’s ability to enter REM, which results in a lower quality of sleep. If you drink less, you’ll sleep better and have more energy throughout the day.
If You Can, Cut Back On Work
Constant rushing and overworking will drain anyone. Clinical psychologist Kristina Hallett says that overworking and fatigue have a strong link. Chronic stress and activity drain people emotionally and physically.
A 2015 study concluded that overworking leads to health complications such as diabetes, substance abuse, depression, cognitive decline, and heart disease. If you can lighten up your workload, doing so may do wonders for your energy. If your stress is all-consuming, consult a psychologist.
Skip The Afternoon Coffee
An afternoon energy dip prompts many people to make coffee or caffeinated tea. But be aware of the time. According to the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, coffee disrupts sleep for up to six hours. After eight hours, half of the caffeine wears off.
If you want a good night’s sleep, don’t drink coffee within six hours of your bedtime. If you plan to go to bed at 10:00 p.m., the last time you can drink coffee is 4:00 p.m. If you follow this rule, you’ll sleep better and have more energy.