When Exercise Can Offer The Same Boost As Coffee (And When It Can't)

When Exercise Can Offer the Same Boost as Coffee (and When It Can't)

We've known for a while that exercise can boost your energy level and your productivity. if you get a short, high-intensity workout first thing in the morning, it can give you the same boost as a cup of coffee -- and you'll enjoy that effect much longer.

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Over at The Daily Beast, Gregory Ferenstein explains that he swapped his morning cup of coffee for 30 seconds -- just 30 seconds -- of high-intensity body weight exercise in the morning. Then he tested himself using a Stanford-designed cognitive performance test, and he found that not only did his energy levels and mood improved, but his mental acuity, short-term memory, and reaction time were all enhanced as well -- roughly the same as when he's riding the boost that caffeine offers.

Ferenstein's personal experiment isn't a scientific study by any means, but there is precedent for the idea that exercise can actually make you feel more energetic and boost cognitive ability in a similar fashion to caffeine, only with lasting effects. In fact, over the long term, it doesn't even have to be high-intensity. Ferenstein's personal experiment led him to brief, 30-second (or however long he can stand it) workouts over the course of his day, or whenever he needed a little pick-me-up, and it's worked well for him.

However, it's not a perfect formula. Coffee is wonderful, and count me among the people who won't give up their morning cup just yet. For one, the studies that established a causal connection between high-intensity exercise and a significant energy boost all showed that people in prime physical condition got the most benefit. The less fit or active you are, the less pronounced the immediate energising effect. Over the long term, you'll see results, but trying to do high-intensity exercise every time you need a little boost can be counter-productive. Ferenstein notes that in his case, he's active and his body is used to that level of exercise, and he can handle it with ease. For many of us, that level of exercise is impossible where we work, would make us feel terrible, sick or sweaty, or our bodies wouldn't get the same benefit.

In short, if you're already in good physical condition and you want a quick mental and motivational boost, drop and get in some push-ups during the afternoon slump instead of getting another cup of coffee. For the rest of us, regular workouts offer the same benefits, just over the long term, so there's no need to try to replace your afternoon cup -- but don't skip your regular workout either.

What Happened when I Replaced Coffee with 30 Seconds of Exercise [The Daily Beast]


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