Fatigue - Heart 2 Heart Cardiac physiotherapy


Fatigue or tiredness is a complex symptom, and there can be many reasons why you may feel tired. Fatigue results from an inability to produce energy efficiently. This can come as a result of doing too much and building up waste products in your body which is causing your fatigue.

To produce energy, you need to be able to have a good fuel source and an ability to bring oxygen through your system to meet the fuel source in your muscle tissue to produce energy.

As you breathe you are taking oxygen in from the air. This oxygen travels to your lungs and then into your blood stream and back to the heart. The heart then pumps the blood filled with oxygen to your muscles through the arteries. For example, if you are out for a walk, the oxygen will travel to the muscles in your legs. At the muscle tissue of the leg, this oxygen meets your fuel source and produces energy.

If there is any reason why this system is not working properly you will experience fatigue. Below are some common causes of fatigue:

  • Not Enough Oxygen: Fatigue comes quickly when your lungs cannot inhale and exhale enough oxygen. This shortage of oxygen and the build-up of waste products can both make you feel tired and low in energy.
  • Low Exercise Capacity: If you are unfit, your arteries become sluggish and this means that they cannot respond appropriately when you increase your activity levels. Slowly increasing up your physical activity levels will help your arteries to adapt and increase your energy levels.
  • Anaemia: When you have anaemia, your body does not have enough haemoglobin. Haemoglobin carries oxygen throughout your body. When you have too little haemoglobin or not enough red blood cells, your body’s tissues do not get enough oxygen, causing you to feel tired or weak.
  • Sleep Deprivation: If you are not getting enough sleep, your cells cannot be replenished. Adults should aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
  • Muscle Weakness: Although your muscles may be getting enough fuel and oxygen, they cannot produce the energy required to go about your daily activities. When a person is feeling tired, they may limit their activities, which over time can lead to decreased stamina and body deconditioning. The more deconditioned a person becomes, the more fatigued they may feel even doing simple tasks. It is important to complete strength work at least 3 times per week. Here are some simple exercises to try.

Stengthening Exercises

Other reasons for fatigue include depression, diabetes, stress, and food intolerances.

How can exercise help fatigue?

Exercise is a great way of improving your body’s ability to produce energy and so to reduce your fatigue levels.

Any kind of physical exertion creates an increased need for oxygen. We all find ourselves breathing heavier and faster during exercise. Because of this increased consumption of oxygen, our lung capacity also increases with exercise. Over time, with continued exercise, aerobic capacity increases, meaning we can effectively deliver more and more oxygen to your brain and blood stream. This helps us to feel more awake, alert, and ready to go.

Exercise allows your blood itself to circulate more efficiently, bring more oxygen to your muscles and allowing for increased functioning throughout your body and heightened energy production. Your arteries begin to respond more efficiently to changes in activity as you get fitter.

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Release of Endorphins

In addition to helping more oxygen reach your brain and bloodstream, physical activity produces mood boosting endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals produced at the base of your brain that produce feelings of pain relief and well-being when they are released. Even moderate or light physical activity will cause your body to release these endorphins. This lifting of your spirits and mood also creates the effect of making you feel more energized.

Better Sleep Quality

Being physically active requires you to expend energy, and helps you feel more tired and ready to rest at the end of the day. Stress can also keep us up at night. Establishing a regular exercise routine can also help to reduce your stress levels and get you to sleep easier at night.

Overall, with exercise, your arteries begin to respond more efficiently to changes in activity. As your muscles become stronger, you can produce energy more effectively. You should aim for 150 minutes of exercise per week and complete some strength work.  For those recovering from a cardiac event you will need a more structured programme including a warm up of 15 minutes, walking then for 20 minutes at a walk talk unable to sing intensity followed by a ten minute cool down.

If you are concerned about your fatigue levels, please contact your healthcare professional. Learn how a cardiac physiotherapist can help you:

Learn how a cardiac physiotherapist can help you with your fatigue


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