No Energy for Exercise?

Back in October 2008, Diabetes Self-Management E-News readers were surveyed on their biggest barriers to exercise. The choice getting the most votes was “Not having enough energy.” (Experiencing physical pain and not having enough time were also popular choices — see the poll results here.)


In the interest of helping our readers overcome that barrier, I asked exercise physiologist and certified diabetes educator Richard Weil (who is on the Editorial Board of Diabetes Self-Management magazine) what advice he could offer to people lacking the energy to exercise. His response was as follows:

1. Start by being active on weekends, when you have more time and less stress. Any amount is better than none, and you can always add more later.

2. If you feel tired all the time, speak to your doctor about your low energy level. There are many reasons for persistent fatigue, and many of them are treatable.

3. Check your blood glucose level when you feel particularly low on energy. Both high and low blood glucose can cause you to feel fatigued.

4. Try starting a physical activity program in spite of your low energy, but work out only at a light intensity and for short periods. Energy does beget energy, and you may find that you have more of it over time. If not, speak with your doctor about your fatigue.

5. Try being active at different times of day. Late afternoon is very tough for many people. Early morning can also be hard at first, but it tends to get easier as you do it.

6. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. If you get less than seven hours of sleep a night, you may simply be too tired to exercise. Set an earlier bedtime, particularly if you plan to exercise first thing in the morning.

7. If you’re tired in spite of allowing enough time for sleep, check out the possibility that you have sleep apnea. A person with sleep apnea wakes up for a few seconds at a time, numerous times per night, leaving him fatigued during the day. Sleep apnea usually causes loud snoring, so your bed partner or household members are probably aware of any sleep problems you may have, even if you aren’t.

So there you have seven expert tips on finding more energy to exercise. Have any of these helped you become more active? What other tips can you add to the list to help your fellow readers? Tell us in a comment.

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  • CalgaryDiabetic

    Dear Ingrid.

    I would say that the primary cause of supper fatigue is diabetes it self. Even when I lost 80 ld and exercised most of the day I still felt constanly wiped out. For some reaason the disease ruins the energy of the body.

    Now in addition sleep is a problem since I cannot achieve more than 3 hours continuous. I stay in bed and get some more in bits and pieces. I am not sure if it is blood sugars or what?

    My wife who is not diabetic also suffers. She may have some degree of sleep apnea. I have chronic nasal congestion. Needs a high relative humidity which is not easy to achieve when it is cold outside as everything condenses on the windows. Nose spray only alternative. Tried nose surgery 10 years ago worked great for 6 months then total failure.

  • David Spero RN

    Hi CD,
    If you’re only sleeping three hours a night, of course you’re tired! I wonder if there’s a sleep lab up there that can help evaluate what’s going on. If you slept better, you would have less pain, too. I’ve got an article coming out in the print DSM soon about that.
    Ingrid, this is a great article!

  • Gloria Frothingham

    My husband has diabetes as an adult for about 13 years he has a heart condition triple bypass and
    stints twice two heart attacks and prostate problems
    which don’t allow him to sleep during the night
    so he sleeps after he is so exhausted during the
    day and gets up around 3pm. Often says he is too
    tired to exercise. Plus he is a night owl and he’ll
    spend hours on the computer at night also. When I am waking up at 6am he is going to bed.

    How can I help or what can he do.?