Conquer Drowsiness with 10 Easy Exercises You Can Do in 5 Minutes

Filed in The Healthy Writer by on January 20, 2015 • views: 2018

Conquer Drowsiness 2In his book Awaken the Giant Within, Tony Robbins said something that has stuck with me ever since I read it:

“Emotion is created by motion. Everything that we feel is the result of how we use our bodies….If you repeatedly use your body in weak ways, if you drop your shoulders on a regular basis, if you walk around like you’re tired, you will feel tired….Your body leads your emotions.”

I encourage you to read that last sentence again. It’s contrary to how most of us think.

Most of us believe we feel an emotion before it shows up in the body. This is possible, too, as when we laugh in response to a joke, or cry in response to a pet passing away.

But the body can also lead emotions. If we slump in our chair, we can feel listless and tired. If we hunch into ourselves during a meeting, we can feel powerless.

If we come to the blank page with our head low and our shoulders caved, the brain may respond by shutting down—a.k.a., writer’s block.

This is actually good news. It means we can change our current state—our emotions, how alert and awake we feel, and our focus—by leading the way with the body.

Imagine using physical activity to turn things around when:

  • You have a deadline to meet and you’re feeling drowsy
  • You have a book signing scheduled and you’re suffering from jet lag
  • You sit down to write, and your brain blanks out
  • You have to give an interview or presentation, and you’re filled with self-doubt
  • You are short on ideas, and you feel your creativity is lagging

These and many other situations can be salvaged by waking the body first, and then watching it affect the mind.

Your Fatigue Could Be Caused by Inactivity

Before I go into how you can turn your emotional state around with movement, consider this: if you’re finding yourself struggling with a writing (or other creative) project—or if you’re experiencing a lot of fatigue lately—go to the body first.

Most of us think we’re tired because we’re not getting enough sleep, or we’re going through too much stress, or we’ve got too much on our minds. These are all possible reasons for fatigue and drowsiness (or even writer’s block), but there’s one big reason that many people fail to consider.

You’re simply not moving enough.

In essence, you’ve trained your body to act, feel, and be tired.

We’re all short on time these days. Many of us are struggling to fit activity into our schedules. Meanwhile, our sedentary lifestyle is extremely dangerous to our health. (Read more about that in my post about sitting over six hours a day.)

We have been taught to think that as long as we do daily workouts, we can counteract the havoc sitting wreaks on our bodies. But more recent research is challenging that notion.

A 2010 study, for instance, found that the more time people spent sitting—regardless of whether they exercised or not—the more likely they were to die during the study period.

Sit on CouchA second study published in 2011 found similar results—those who spent more than four hours or more doing sedentary activities, like watching television or working at the computer, were more than twice as likely to have a major cardiac event that involved hospitalization, death, or both. Again, exercise didn’t matter.

A later 2014 study also linked living a sedentary lifestyle to an increased risk of depression. Those who spent too much time in front of the television or the computer were 25 percent more likely to be depressed.

Finally, a 2006 study review of 12 studies all showed a relationship between physical activity and fatigue—and demonstrated that increased activity helped reduce symptoms of fatigue.

An earlier 2004 study of over 6,000 women also showed that engaging in physical activities during leisure time decreased persistent fatigue and the risk of developing chronic fatigue.

The hour-long workout isn’t good enough. Scientists now know that one of the keys to feeling alert, awake, and ready to go is simply to get up and move as often as possible.

10 Exercises That Will Wake You Up Fast

Most of us find it difficult to limit our time at the computer. We have to finish our projects, do our jobs, and create our masterpieces.

The key is to get up and get up often.

Your body leads your emotions.

You can do the following exercises in five minutes or less, and each will get your heart pumping and your brain thinking more clearly. To boost your mood, add some of your favorite music to the mix.

  1. Jump RopeJump rope: This is one of the best exercises you can do. It’s a great calorie burner, you can do it most anywhere, it strengthens muscles in your lower body and core, and it’s a lower-impact exercise than jogging. Best of all, it helps get your lymphatic system moving, which flushes waste out of your system.
  2. Try rebounding: In a study published in 1980, NASA deemed rebounding (jumping on a trampoline or mini-trampoline) a superior exercise to running, as it strengthened the body more with less effort. (They were looking for ways to help astronauts recover body and bone strength at the time.) Researchers declared it the most “efficient, effective form of exercise yet devised by man.” It’s also fun—keep a rebounder next to your desk and I dare you to avoid jumping on it during your breaks!
  3. Do some jumping jacks: Increase your heart rate, get more oxygen to your brain, burn fat, strengthen your muscles, and focus your mind. All this just from an old exercise you probably did in high school. Get up from your desk, do 50 (or whatever number feels good to you), walk around to let your heart rate come down, and go back to work. See if you don’t feel more alert!
  4. Run in place: It gets your heart rate up and you can do it anywhere. If you have a treadmill nearby, feel free to use it, but if you don’t have one, don’t let that stop you from getting up to move. Running in place doesn’t replace actual running, but if you’ve got only five minutes, it could help wake you up while burning some calories.
  5. Take the stairs a few times: This is a great exercise if you work in an office with more than one floor, or if you’re about to do a signing and need to shake off some nerves. It’s easy to leave your desk and run up and down the stairs a few times, or explore the different levels of the venue where you’re going to speak or sign. (You can also use the stairs in your hotel room before going to your designated location.) Another benefit—as most people take the easiest path possible to where they’re going, the stairway is often empty and quiet, which can give you a nice reprieve and help you regain your focus.
  6. danceDance: Turn on your favorite music and move as you please. Granted, this one is harder to do in a public place, but if you can get into a room where you feel safe, plug in your headphones and go for it. Bonus benefit: According to a 2003 study, frequent dancing reduced risk of dementia!
  7. Do some push-ups: You may think push-ups are only about strengthening your arms and upper body, but have you noticed your heartbeat after doing a set? It’s a great cardiovascular exercise, too, and gets the blood to your brain in a hurry. If you’re sleepy, this is a great one to do, even if you can only knock out a few. Push-ups are great for both men and women to develop core strength, as well, so if you want to tone up that belly, drop and do twenty! If you make push-ups a part of your regular weekly exercise, you’ll develop your muscles and increase your metabolic rate, which can help you lose weight.
  8. Go for a walk: Walking is a great way to wake up, refresh your brain, and enhance your well-being, especially if you can sneak outside to do it. Even five minutes will make a big difference in how you feel, and will interrupt the hours you spend sitting. The American Heart Association adds that it reduces the risk of heart disease, improves blood sugar levels, and even reduces the risk of breast and colon cancer. It also reduces stress and boosts mood. If you can’t go out, simply walk around the area you’re in.
  9. Perform a few burpees: A “burpee” is an exercise in which you do a series of movements and end up back where you started. First, you jump straight up in the air, land and go into a squat, jump your feet back into a plank position, do one push-up, jump your feet up to your hands and move into another squat, and stand back up, ready to jump again if you can! A couple of these and you’ll be breathing hard and ready to go.
  10. Clean something: We’re talking real cleaning here, not just reorganizing your papers. Take everything off the desk and wipe it down with a cleaning solution. If you have a home office, vacuum, or clean up the kitchen or bathroom. If you’ve got an office coffee break area, take a few minutes to make it sparkle. You’ll get yourself moving, and get your mind on something else so you’ll be ready to work again when you sit back down. The best thing about a five-minute cleaning break is you’ll actually be glad to get back to the desk! (ha)

Do you have other ideas for 5-minute exercises you can do anywhere? Please share them with our readers.


Sources
Neville Owen, et al., “Too Much Sitting: The Population-Health Science of Sedentary Behavior,” Exerc Sport Sci Rev., July 2010; 38(3):105-113, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3404815/.

Emmanuel Stamatakis, et al., “Screen-Based Entertainment Time, All-Cause Mortality, and Cardiovascular Events: Population-Based Study With Ongoing Mortality and Hospital Events Follow-Up,” Journal of the American College of Cardiology, January 18, 2011; 57(3):292-299, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0735109710044657.

Long Zhai, et al., “Sedentary behavior and the risk of depression: a meta-analysis,” Br J Sports Med., September 2, 2014; http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2014/09/02/bjsports-2014-093613.abstract?sid=76ff3093-1eb3-4e79-b258-8bef0003dab4.

A. Bhattacharya, et al., Body acceleration distribution and O2 uptake in humans during running and jumping, Journal of Applied Physiology, November 1,  1980; 49(5):881-887, http://jap.physiology.org/content/49/5/881

Joe Verghese, Leisure Activities and the Risk of Dementia in the Elderly, New England Journal of Medicine, June 19, 2003, 348: 2508-2516, http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa022252.

Puetz JW, “Physical activity and feelings of energy and fatigue: epidemiological evidence,” Sports Med., 2006; 36(9):767-80, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16937952.

W. Eriksen, D Bruusgaard, “Do physical leisure time activities prevent fatigue? A 15 month prospective study of nurses’ aides,” Br J Sports Med., 2004; 38:331-336, http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/38/3/331.full.

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  1. Chere Hagopian says:

    Great suggestions! I love rebounding and might have to go buy a mini-trampoline now. I used to have one, and it was a blast! What I often do for a break from work is stretching, especially neck stretches. It doesn’t burn many calories but it prevents tense and sore muscles! Another quick exercise you might add to the list is wall-sitting, a squat against the wall, as if you were sitting in an invisible chair. The military uses it as a form of discipline (as I know all too well), but it relieves restless leg symptoms for me like almost nothing else (if anyone has that issue). Regular squats might be a good addition to the list too. But dancing, rebounding and jumping rope sound much more fun!

    • Colleen says:

      The rebounder is on my wish list this year. I’ve wanted to try it forever. Yes, I’ve heard about the wall sit—definitely good for the quads. Interesting that it relieved restless legs for you! Nice tip!