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Should You Exercise When You're Tired? Experts Explain

by Grace Gallagher - February 12, 2020

We’ve all been there. You have every intention of working out, but you end up waking up several times during the night or your eyes shoot open hours before your alarm goes off. When you find yourself incredibly tired during the day — is it better to take a nap or go to a yoga class? The answer, like so many things relating to health, is… it depends. Below, experts explain.

How Sleep Affects Your Workout

Sleep is key for allowing muscles to recover from strenuous workouts, according to an article by Karen Weintraub in The New York Times, and it may help prevent injury. But then again, in a true Catch-22 when it comes to the “sleep-or-work-out debate,” exercise is also known to improve sleep. “Research shows that yoga (including meditation) helps improve sleep, manage stress, enhance mood, and reduce inflammation which can help prevent sickness,” says Ann Swanson, MS, certified yoga therapist and author ofScience of Yoga. “If you’re tired, yoga can help! Just listen to your body and choose the type of practice it is asking for.”

What Type Of Class Is Best When You're Tired?

“Nothing replaces quality sleep,” adds Lauren Larry, founder of Sunny Sankalpa Yoga. It’s important, though, to discern if you’re mentally tired, say from looking at a screen all day, or if you’re truly physically tired and will wake from a nap feeling rejuvenated. One thing Larry does not recommend doing on exhausting days is hot yoga. "If you’re tired, you’re likely dehydrated and hot yoga or an intense class will not be the class for you,” she says. Instead, you could try drinking water or tea and go to a more restorative class like yin yoga.

Typically, I suggest [you] choose a class that meets you where you are,” Swanson says. “If you want to relax and recover from a long week, you may want to try a restorative or gentle yoga class. That way, you can ease into the practice. Perhaps the next day you will feel more like a vigorous class like a vinyasa flow class. Listen to your body and give it what it needs!”

And if you get to class and your body is telling you what it really needs is to rest in child’s pose for an hour? Sounds great. “An instructor should be very proud of you and respect your need to take a step back during class,” Larry says. “I love to see a yoga student listening to their bodies versus listening to me.”

What If You're Tired & You Feel A Cold Coming On?

You should always prioritize sleep if you think you’re getting sick. If you’re feeling the telltale signs of a cold or flu coming on, “you should rest, recover, and try to nap,” Ann Swanson, MS, certified yoga therapist and author of Science of Yoga, tells Lively. “In that case, I would suggest doing a yoga Nidra deep relaxation practice from home (here are a few free ones). However, if you are just feeling down you may need a pick-me-up and yoga can be even better than a cup of coffee for some pure energy and a mindset reset.”

What's The Final Takeaway?

One day you may decide to sleep in or take a much-needed nap, and the next day, you’ll find yourself back on the mat, even if you’re yawning your way through the class. Like so many situations, trust your body to tell you what it really needs.

On that note, we also recommend discussing your health goals with your licensed healthcare professional. They can best provide you with the diagnosis and treatment of any medical condition and assist you as well in deciding whether a regimen would be a helpful addition to your lifestyle.


While we love this insight, we also recommend discussing your health goals with your licensed healthcare professional. They can best provide you with the diagnosis and treatment of any medical condition and assist you in deciding what would be a helpful addition to your routine.

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