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Physical Activity and Feelings of Energy and Fatigue

Epidemiological Evidence

Abstract

Approximately 20% of adults worldwide report persistent fatigue. Physical activity is a healthful behaviour that has promise for combating feelings of fatigue and low energy. This article summarises the epidemiological literature that examined the association between physical activity and feelings of energy and fatigue. Twelve population-based studies conducted between January 1945 and February 2005 that concurrently measured physical activity and feelings of energy and fatigue were located. All of the studies suggested that there was an association between physical activity and a reduced risk of experiencing feelings of low energy and fatigue when active adults were compared with sedentary peers (odds ratio = 0.61; 95% CI 0.52, 0.72). The effect was heterogeneous and varied according to study design and the energy/fatigue measure used in the study. Because epidemiological comparisons cannot establish direction of causality, standard criteria for evaluating strength of evidence in epidemiological studies (i.e. strength of association, temporal sequence, consistency, dose response and biological plausibility) were used to judge whether the observed association between physical activity and feelings of energy and fatigue suggest causality in the absence of adequate experimental evidence. There was agreement among the studies suggesting a strong, consistent, temporally appropriate dose-response relationship between physical activity and feelings of energy and fatigue. No compelling evidence has confirmed any plausible biological mechanisms that explain the apparent protective effect of physical activity against feelings of low energy and fatigue. Nonetheless, the epidemiological evidence is sufficiently strong to justify better controlled prospective cohort studies and randomised controlled trials.

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Acknowledgements

The author would like to thank Derek Hales, Patrick O’Connor and Rod Dishman for their assistance in preparing this manuscript.

No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this review. The author has no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this review.

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Correspondence to Timothy W. Puetz.

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Puetz, T.W. Physical Activity and Feelings of Energy and Fatigue. Sports Med 36, 767–780 (2006). https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-200636090-00004

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Keywords

  • Physical Activity
  • Physical Inactivity
  • Leisure Time Physical Activity
  • Temporal Sequence
  • Biological Plausibility