Does exercising leave you drained and exhausted afterwards? Or are you terribly tired, but push through with a workout hoping you’ll be energised, only to feel lousy later?

I’ve experienced all of the above many times during my younger days, in pursuit of fitness goals combined with a little “kiasuness”.

The thought of not being in prime fitness and not having a “ready-body” at all times was simply unimaginable. But with age comes pockets of wisdom (it seeps in in slow motion) and the need to be practical.

Lack of sleep, insufficient rest, jetlag, stress and inadequate nutrition are factors that can cause you to drag your feet when it comes to workouts.

We know exercise is meant to energise us, but we also need the energy to break into a sweat.

It’s normal to feel tired now and then, but when that feeling is so overwhelming, it’s best to sit it out.

Taking a quick rest or relaxing during the day (perhaps a 10-minute deep breathing exercise or listening to soothing music) can do wonders to alleviate stress.

These few minutes are just as important as your exercise routine to counter the effects of stress.

If you have been under a lot of duress for years and are constantly fatigued, you may have adrenal insufficiency or Addison’s disease.

Your adrenal glands produce a variety of hormones that are essential to life. According to the Mayo Clinic in the United States, adrenal insufficiency refers to inadequate production of one or more of these hormones as a result of an underlying disease.

Signs and symptoms of this disorder may include fatigue, body aches, unexplained weight loss, low blood pressure, lightheadedness, loss of body hair and skin discolouration (hyperpigmentation).

Adrenal insufficiency can be diagnosed by blood tests and special stimulation tests that show inadequate levels of adrenal hormones.

If simple brisk walking causes exhaustion, then you should refrain from doing this activity and seek medical advice.

Never push yourself if you’re too exhausted. It could further weaken your bodily systems or cause musculoskeletal damage.

For chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia sufferers, the key exercises are stretching and light aerobic movements, not strength training, which can trigger muscle spasms and worsen the condition.

Now, do you think you’re just tired or downright exhausted? The difference is the deciding factor in determining if you should work out.

Many of us, especially those who don’t include fitness as part of our lifestyle, may find excuses to skip a workout. And citing tiredness is the easiest justification.

But really, even a 10-minute brisk walk can offer the perfect pick-me-up.

Physical activity increases your endorphin levels, leading to improved memory, reduced stress, better sleep and better overall mood.

When you’re tired, consider doing light cardio exercises, gentle yoga stretching or take a leisurely stroll outdoors to soak in some fresh air.

If you can manage, try a high energy class – it gets your blood flowing and perks you up.

However, if you’re exhausted and your legs feel heavy, breathing is laboured and simple tasks feel like a marathon, you need to rest.

The worst thing you can do at this flu-like point is strength train by pumping irons – a favourite with men.

Symptoms of exhaustion include lingering tiredness or sleepiness, dizziness, sore or aching muscles, slower reflexes and responses, moodiness such as irritability, impaired hand-to-eye coordination, appetite loss, blurry vision, short-term memory problems and hallucinations.

The body feels like it’s been flattened by a ton of bricks.

Exhaustion has been linked to issues with appetite regulation, heart disease, increased inflammation, reduced immunity and a 50% increase in your risk of viral infection.

Also, check your hydration levels. Even mild dehydration can cause tiredness, headaches and muscle cramps. If you’re feeling tired, drink lots of water and observe how you feel.

Multiple studies point to the direct relationship between sleep and exercise, so you should strive for adequate amounts of both.

One 2013 study by Northwestern University in the US found that clocking at least seven hours of sleep can actually help you work out longer and harder the next day.

And the exercise/sleep equation goes both ways – people with insomnia who started a regular aerobic exercise programme improved the quality of their sleep and felt less tired during the day.

But too much sleep, such as adults sleeping more than 11 hours per night, can also lead to tiredness and excessive daytime sleepiness!

Bottom line: Listen to your body because you’re the boss.

Stay home, sleep or watch a movie if you’re too tired for physical activity, or do some gentle stretching in bed.

Restart slowly when your body feels rested enough. It shouldn’t take more than a week or two, at most.

You’ll come back stronger. Just don’t get too comfortable during this down period.


Revathi Murugappan is a certified fitness trainer who tries to battle gravity and continues to dance to express herself artistically and nourish her soul.