You're stressed. You're frazzled. Your to-do list is endless, and your energy level is low.
What you need to do is take a few minutes and just chill.
While it sounds counterintuitive, you probably know that exercise can be energizing. A 2008 University of Georgia study found that previously sedentary adults who started doing 20 minutes of low- to moderate-intensity aerobic exercise three times a week for six weeks reported feeling less fatigued and more energized.
And then there's this: A 2018 study reveals going out for a "quick, light" jog will leave you feeling more energized than resting, lifting your spirits and as a result improve your thinking and decision-making.
How? Participants in the study got a boost of energy from exercise that improved their mood and brain function, causing them to perform better and faster on cognitive tests.
In short, a little exercise not only made them feel better, it also made them smarter, at least for a little while.
According to the researchers:
Brief, moderate-intensity exercise can improve the efficiency of certain cognitive processes through increases in feelings of energy. Light exercise does more to boost cognitive function than relaxing for the same amount of time.
Actually, exercise wasn't just better than relaxing. Participants who relaxed for 15 minutes not only performed worse than they did during baseline testing, they also reported that their energy levels and mood had also decreased.
Which means, when you're frazzled and overwhelmed and feeling down, taking a few minutes to chill might be the worst thing you can do if you then need to keep grinding.
Keep in mind that all it takes is a "quick, light" jog. The key is to increase your heart rate, not make it skyrocket. For most people, "light" means your heart rate should be somewhere around 110 to 120 beats per minute depending on age, fitness level, medical conditions, etc.
So you could take a jog. Or walk some stairs. Or jump on an exercise bike. Or do a HIIT workout. Or even just do some burpees at a fairly relaxed pace.
The key is to remember that your workout doesn't have to be draining or exhausting. You don't have to wear yourself out to get a mood and brainpower boost.
"The primary finding," the researchers write, "was that aerobic exercise improved perceptual speed/visual attentional control through increases in self-reported feelings of vigor-energy."
Which is just a fancy way of saying that when you're low on energy and feeling less than sharp, taking a break and doing nothing is the last thing you need.
Instead, get out of your chair and get moving. You'll come back sharper and smarter.
And in a much better mood.
Can't beat that.