It there’s one thing we could all use more of, it’s that bam-zing-POW invigorated feeling you get after a night of perfect sleep or—let’s be honest—an espresso shot. But those aren’t the only ways to put more pep in your step. It may seem counterintuitive, but expending energy with a good sweat can actually rev you up. “Exercise releases the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, as well as histamine, all of which are linked to feeling more energized,” says Patrick O’Connor, PhD, a professor of kinesiology at the University of Georgia.
Not buying it? Tons of research has found that exercise is energizing. In an analysis of 70 studies, 90 percent found that sedentary people who completed a regular exercise routine improved their energy levels, whether they were healthy or had chronic illnesses. In some cases, exercise was a better treatment for fatigue than narcolepsy drugs, and one study found that walking raised energy more quickly than caffeine.
Sweat and a little superpower go hand in hand, clearly, so meet your most revitalizing workout ever.
The wake-up workout: Part 1
Time: 12 minutes
Equipment: 15-pound dumbbells
Good for: Total-body strength and cardio
Instructions: These three moves will leave you bright-eyed and ready to take on the day. They were developed by trainer Laura Miranda, DPT, to hit all your major muscle groups. Grab a pair of dumbbells and get going.
Squat to overhead press
How to: Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding weights in front of shoulders, palms facing body. Bend knees to lower into a squat, keeping chest up. Stand and press weights overhead, palms facing each other. Return to start. That’s 1 rep. Do as many as you can in 2 minutes, rest 2 minutes, then go to next exercise.
How to: Start in high plank position, hands slightly wider than shoulders. Bracing core, lower body toward floor, then push back up. Bend left knee and twist it toward right elbow, engaging obliques. Return to start and repeat with opposite leg. That’s 1 rep. Complete as many as you can in 2 minutes, rest 2 minutes, then continue to next exercise.
Squat thrust with row
How to: Start in high plank position with hands on dumbbells, shoulders aligned over hands. Engaging abs, row left dumbbell up by pulling shoulder blade in toward spine, keeping back flat and hips steady. Next, jump both feet up to outside of hands, then rise to a squat while leaving dumbbells on floor. Place hands back on dumbbells and jump feet back to start. That’s 1 rep. Complete as many as you can in 2 minutes, alternating the rowing arm, rest 2 minutes, then continue to next part.
The wake-up workout: Part 2
Time: 10 minutes
Good for: Total-body strength and cardio
Instructions: Complete these finishers as a circuit: Starting with the first move, do as many reps as you can in 35 seconds, then rest for 15; continue that pattern until you’ve finished all three exercises. That’s one round. Rest one minute, then repeat two more times.
L drop squat
How to: Stand with knees slightly bent, then lower into a squat, driving right arm out to the side and left arm down toward floor. Jump up and land with feet a little wider than hips as you lower into a squat, driving left arm out to the side and right arm down toward floor. Jump feet up and return to start. Repeat.
Walkouts with T-extension
How to: Bend knees and place hands on floor. Walk hands out to high plank. Rotate hips and shoulders toward the left, raising left hand overhead. Reverse movement to return to start. Repeat, alternating sides.
How to: Stand and jump right foot forward and left foot back; jump again, switching feet. With right leg back, lower into a lunge. Pause for 2 seconds. Jump up to stand, repeat two fast switch steps, leading with left foot. Lower into a lunge with left foot back. Repeat.
Make your workout even more energizing with these four tips
Fuel properly: You’ll get more of a boost if you start your workout with some food in the tank. If you’re training early a.m., look for a carb that’s easily digestible and low in fat and fiber. “Half a banana can give you energy without causing GI issues before exercise,” says WH advisor Amanda Baker Lemein, RD. “Post-workout, recover with something like an RxBar, which has a combo of carbs, protein, and fiber to help repair muscles and replenish energy stores.” That way you’ll walk away feeling refreshed and strong, not depleted.
Drink up: Athletic performance takes a big hit when you’re dehydrated by even 2 percent, says Lemein, who recommends drinking three liters of water a day to stay in peak mode. To keep levels high, bring a 16-ounce water bottle to your workout and try to drink the whole thing in an hour. After, drink until your pee is straw-colored or clear.
Create good vibes: Taking your workout outside, or at least to a well-lit part of your house or gym, will give you a jolt of alertness, says O’Connor. And turn on the tunes: Fast, high-energy music has been shown to increase endurance and power, possibly by acting as a happy distraction and fatigue delayer.
Pick the right intensity for you: Moderate-intensity exercise is the best energy lifter because it doesn’t leave you completely wiped, says research. But high-intensity sessions still work—you just may feel the surge later. If you’re doing a tough workout, sweat early enough that you have some extra recovery time before, say, a big meeting.