Why Your Excuses Are Crap: “I’m too tired”

May 21st, 2009  |  Published in Stumpblog  |  6 Comments

As part of my ongoing series of Why Your Excuses are Crap, today we examine the “I’m too tired” excuse. A new study demonstrates that lifting weights gives you energy.

Two noteworthy elements:

  1. Subjects were sedentary — not regular exercisers. These are exactly the kinds of folks who might protest that they’re “too tired” to work out.
  2. Subjects complained of ongoing fatigue. They already felt like crap.

So here we have a participant group of non-exercisers who feel logey. If anyone’s going to have a reason to keep feeling sucky, it’s these folks.

And all participants were female. (So if you’re reading this and you’re a sedentary non-exercising woman who feels as energetic as a snail in peanut butter, pay attention.)

Participants were given three types of programs.

  1. Weight training, 4 x 10 reps of 3 lower-body exercises (leg press, leg extension, leg curl) at 70% of 1-rep max
  2. Weight training, 4 x 10 reps of the same exercises with 15% of 1RM
  3. No exercise

Researchers measured participants’ vigour and fatigue using short questionnaires taken before, during, and after the experiment.

Wouldn't you love to feel like this guy?

Wouldn't you love to feel like this guy?

Fatigue levels didn’t change much, but people reported feeling less fatigued than you might expect given that a workout is supposed to be tiring.

Interestingly, the participants reported feeling more energetic during the workout — almost as soon as the training began. As the researchers report, “among young, sedentary women reporting below-average feelings of energy immediately before the resistance exercise bout, feelings of energy were higher during and following an acute bout of moderate- to high-intensity resistance exercise than in a non-exercise control condition.”

In other words, they didn’t feel energetic before, but they did almost immediately once they got going.

Also interestingly, there wasn’t a whole lot of difference between heavier and lighter exercise. This puzzled the researchers a bit, but they concluded that perhaps even lighter exercise can generate similar effects as heavier.

Matthew P. Herring and Patrick J. O’Connor. The effect of acute resistance exercise on feelings of energy and fatigue. Journal of Sports Sciences, Volume 27, Issue 7 May 2009 , pages 701 – 709.


We examined the effect of acute moderate- to high-intensity resistance exercise on feelings of energy and fatigue in sedentary college women reporting a persistent above-average frequency of fatigue. Fourteen sedentary female volunteers reporting persistent fatigue completed three counterbalanced conditions [70% one-repetition maximum (1-RM), 15% 1-RM/placebo, and a no-exercise control]. In the exercise conditions, participants performed four sets of 10 repetitions of three lower-body resistance exercises. The Profile of Mood States-Brief Form (POMS-B) vigour and fatigue mood scores were obtained immediately before conditions, every 11 min and 40 s during conditions, and 20 and 30 min after conditions. The data showed a significant main effect for vigour (P = 0.01). Vigour scores were significantly higher for the 70% 1-RM than the control condition (P = 0.01). No significant difference was observed between the 70% 1-RM and 15% 1-RM/placebo conditions. There was a significant main effect for fatigue (P = 0.04). Fatigue scores were significantly lower for the 15% 1-RM/placebo than the control condition (P = 0.04). Acute moderate- to high-intensity lower-body resistance exercise increased feelings of energy during and after exercise compared with the control. It is unclear whether this effect is a placebo effect because, while it did not differ from the placebo condition, we cannot rule out that resistance exercise at a wide range of intensities produces increased feelings of energy.


  1. Trishy says:

    May 21st, 2009at 11:26 am(#)

    Great study. I’m not surprised about the lack of a noticeable difference between the loss of fatigue after a light or a heavy workout. When I feel tired and sluggish and want to vegetate on the couch, just getting off my ass and doing some dishes makes me feel more energetic. You don’t have to do much activity to immediately feel better. Of course, if this study went on for six months, I bet the women who were working out harder would report having more energy all the time as compared to those who were working out lighter, since they would probably be in better physical condition at that point.

  2. anonymous says:

    May 21st, 2009at 1:34 pm(#)

    Great post, but can you promise to never show a picture of Richard Simmons in shorts again?

  3. blreber.net | says:

    May 27th, 2009at 1:59 pm(#)

    […] Why Your Excuses Are Crap: “I’m too tired” :: stumptuous.com […]

  4. Ms .45 says:

    June 8th, 2009at 6:46 am(#)

    Great info, but what exactly is a placebo for exercise??? The whole point of a placebo is that it tricks you into thinking you’ve done something (ie taken a pill that has an effect, when all you’ve done is swallow a bit of lactose), whereas if you move your body, that’s definitely exercise. Or do they mean they gave the women a supplement?

  5. Mistress Krista says:

    June 8th, 2009at 7:01 am(#)

    In this case, it means they assigned the women a level of resistance that is normally too low to cause any noticeable effect. We know that below a certain point, resistance won’t increase strength or put a significant demand on the body to recover or respond. (This is why low-resistance “toning” is largely a waste of time for most purposes.) So, they did the movements, but not at a level that would challenge their bodies enough to respond.

  6. Noel Lynne Figart says:

    November 3rd, 2009at 3:12 pm(#)

    This is totally anecdotal, just being me and all, but I’ve been tired and felt like crap all summer, even with pushing to finish a challenge if swimming 50 miles in four months.

    I’ve gotten back in the weight room and after only a week, I am experiencing a dramatically noticeable improvement in mood and energy that just the swimming doesn’t do for me.

    I do think some cardio is important to stay healthy and I love to swim, but the real results seem to me to come from challenging myself with weights. I do push quite hard in the weight room and leave a workout shaking. That seems to be what does it for me, personally.

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