In a perfect world, we would have an endless supply of energy to tackle everything in our day with gusto. However, almost everyone has difficulty sleeping from time to time, has to juggle an overpacked schedule, and otherwise just feels unduly too tired to work out.
Although exercising when you are tired is often one of the last things you feel like doing, skipping out on your workout can leave you feeling down, and moving your body can actually often increase energy.
Even if you are not up to your normal vigorous workout on days when you are feeling physically or emotionally exhausted and depleted, trying to do at least a little bit of exercise can be very beneficial for your body, mind, and energy state.
In this article, we will share some ideas for the best workouts to do when you feel too tired to work out.
We will cover:
- Should You Work Out When You Are Tired?
- Too Tired To Work Out? The 9 Best Workouts to Do Even If You Are Tired
Let’s dive in!
Should You Work Out When You Are Tired?
So, if you feel too tired to work out, should you push your body and work out anyway, or should you rest?
First and foremost, when you feel too tired to work out, it is important to consider the reason why you feel tired.
If you feel exhausted because of poor sleep, a hectic schedule, jet lag, stress, or depression, working out—as long as you do the right types of exercise and don’t overdo it—can potentially increase your energy levels and help you feel more “normal.”
However, if you feel too tired or depleted to work out because you have been overtraining, recovering from an illness, or just recently got back into fitness and have been progressing rather aggressively, it is better to heed the signals from your body.
If this is the case, take a rest day. Instead of exercising, take a nap or stay in bed a bit longer rather than getting up for your normal morning workout.
Too Tired To Work Out? The 9 Best Workouts to Do Even If You Are Tired
Everyone is different, so the type of movement or physical activity that is best to do when you feel too exhausted to exercise will depend on your preferences and body.
Some days when you feel too tired to exercise, your body may crave gentle movements like yoga or Pilates.
Other times, you might just need to kickstart your body, and a more vigorous type of exercise will get the blood pumping to energize your body and brain.
You may need to try a few different options when you have low energy and see how you feel after a couple of minutes. One type of exercise may spark a second wind or jive better with what you feel up to than another.
Here are some suggestions for the best workouts to do when you feel too tired to exercise.
Depending on the intensity of your usual fitness routine, walking might sound too simple to count as “exercise,” but walking can be a great workout, even for fit individuals.
Moreover, walking is one of the best forms of exercise to do when you feel tired because it is low intensity, low impact, and gets your heart rate up enough to increase circulation. This will help deliver more oxygen to your brain and tissues, potentially helping you feel more alert.
If you are trying to bust through fatigue, walking outside rather than on a treadmill will be even more beneficial. The fresh air and sunshine can invigorate your senses and leave you feeling more rejuvenated.
Yoga can be one of the best types of exercise to do when you are tired, particularly if you are worn out due to stress, depression, or poor sleep.
A yoga routine will help connect you to your breath and get your muscles moving. You can use yoga to wind down before bed, or perform more dynamic yoga sequences, such as sun salutations, to feel more energized if you need a quick pick-me-up.
Because yoga is low-intensity exercise, it won’t be a particularly energy-demanding workout, which is ideal if you have little energy to spare. Plus, as you move through a variety of yoga poses, you might find you get just the emotional and physical boost you need to turn your day around.
Studies suggest that just 25 minutes of yoga can boost brain function and energy, making yoga a great option for days when you feel sluggish and sleepy.
Calisthenics or bodyweight exercises such as jumping jacks, squats, push-ups, bicycle crunches, mountain climbers, and triceps dips can be a great workout for when you are feeling down.
A quick little circuit of several different calisthenics can get your heart pumping and will activate all of the major muscles in your body. Set a timer for 30 to 45 seconds and perform 5 to 8 different bodyweight exercises a couple of times through.
You do not need to use dumbbells or other forms of external resistance with calisthenics.
Therefore, even if you feel fairly uncoordinated and loopy after a poor night of sleep, calisthenics can generally be performed pretty safely with less risk of injury than if you are trying to push through a difficult strength training workout when your body and brain are zonked out.
Like yoga, Pilates is a low-intensity form of exercise that can potentially relieve physical and emotional tension. Many Pilates moves can be performed in a supine position on the floor, making it a perfect type of exercise when your body feels lethargic, heavy, and slow.
Focus on engaging your core muscles and being mindful of your breathing patterns.
Even if you don’t elevate your heart rate appreciably, you can strengthen key abdominal, low back, and hip muscles that can help you in your other workouts when you feel ready to push yourself again.
#5: Zumba or Active Dancing
You don’t have to hop on the elliptical machine or use the treadmill at the gym when you feel too tired to work out. These types of structured forms of exercise can feel overwhelmingly demanding (both physically and mentally) when you feel exhausted.
Instead, a more attractive option might be to move your body to some of your favorite music.
Zumba, or other forms of active dancing, have been shown to be as effective as other forms of aerobic exercise for increasing your energy, boosting your mood, and reducing stress.
If you have never tried Zumba before, you can find all sorts of free YouTube Zumba workouts, or just put on some of your favorite upbeat music and let the beat guide you through freestyle dancing.
It may sound counterintuitive because Tabata is arguably the most intense form of exercise possible, but a quick, high-intensity Tabata workout can be just what you need when you want to exercise but feel exhausted.
In just four minutes, you can get a highly-effective workout, giving you extra time to sleep in a bit longer before working or getting to bed early rather than dragging out a longer workout.
To do a Tabata workout, pick any type of exercise that you can perform vigorously. Good examples of Tabata-friendly exercises include jump squats, burpees, jumping jacks, sprinting in place, spinning on an indoor cycling bike, or squats.
Complete eight rounds of 20 seconds of all-out exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest. The entire Tabata will take only four minutes and will certainly get your heart rate up at near-maximal levels.
#7: Gentle Cardio
A low-intensity steady-state workout, or low-intensity interval training (LIIT) workout on any form of cardio equipment or outdoors, can be more doable when you feel lethargic.
Try easy cycling on an exercise bike, elliptical on low intensity, gentle swimming, aqua jogging or water walking, slow hiking with your dog, or rowing on an erg at a low resistance and slower stroke rate.
#8: Light Strength Training
Lifting with lighter weights can improve muscular endurance and will not be as taxing as strength training with high resistance.
When you are exercising after sleeping poorly, consider using weight training machines rather than free weights so that you don’t have to worry about stabilizing your movement patterns.
#9: Active Recovery
Although not “exercise” per se, doing some active recovery when you feel too tired to work out can help prepare your body to be all that much more ready to go for your next workout.
Try 5-10 minutes of foam rolling and stretching when you just don’t have the energy to exercise.
These low-intensity workouts will enable you to stay consistent with your exercise habits while respecting the needs of your body on days when you just feel too tired to work out at your normal intensity level.
Moving your body, even briefly and gently, can be an effective way to kick your body into gear.
If you have chosen bodyweight functional training as your workout for the day, check out our bodyweight workout you can do from the comfort of your own home.