Movement as a Stimulant – The Often Un-Heralded Option

In the middle of a workday if energy levels are low, do you choose to move or drink coffee? Our guest blogger, Dr. Jacqueline Lee, invites you to choose movement – an alternative that provides a lift without the lag – and shares her tips on using movement to increase performance.

By Jacqueline D. Lee, Ph.D.

We’ve all experienced moments where energy levels are lower than optimal in the face of several more hours of work that has to be completed. And, rather than getting up to move, because you’re already low on energy to begin with, grabbing that EXTRA cup of coffee seems like the logical solution for providing just what you need to wrap up those last few hours.

The question is, how much extra, is extra? What are the long term, negative, internal side effects of that extra cup? And, are there better options?

While the benefits of movement on energy levels are becoming widely known, are you actually opting to move? Do you feel that the benefits of movement – that are physical, mental, and emotional, with little to no negative effects – can really stand up to your extra cup of Joe? Or that movement can actually stimulate your energy levels enough? While it may be easier to reach for caffeine, and take less energy to do so, what’s the payoff in the long run? How much are you willing to sacrifice, just this once?

To move or to drink? That is the question.

Movement provides both a positive physical habit and mental stimulant, and opting to move when you’re tired, may be just what you need…

  • to get through,
  • to increase energy levels,
  • to trigger increased brain capacities,
  • to help jump start your metabolism,
  • to set you on a path toward a healthier lifestyle.

Five Steps to Get Started

In case the thought of introducing movement started alighting inside, I’ll make it easy for you. I’ve put together a simple movement break with photos to help you get started.

Go ahead – see if added movement won’t get your blood pumping and increase your energy levels!

Neck Stretch

Hold for a count of 10 each way. BREATHE through the hold in order to allow sufficient oxygen to your brain and muscles.

 neck stretch.png

Chest Stretch

Hold for a count of 10, and BREATHE through the hold.

 Chest Stretch

Torso Stretch

Hold for a count of 10 each way. Exhale as you rotate to the side; and, as always, BREATHE through the hold.

Torso Stretch

Hip and Glute Stretch

Hold for a count of 10 each leg. KEEP BREATHING!

Hip stretch

Overhead Reach to Side Bend

Hold for a count of 10 each way. Exhale as you bend to the side; BREATHE!

 Overhead

Now, personalize your mini movement break with whatever appeals to you, such as walking up and down a flight of stairs, or taking a loop around the office area. That’s the beauty of it – make movement uniquely yours!

Notice how you feel after your break. I’m guessing you’ll be more energized; and moreover, your brain will have been stimulated too.

How do you move? Feel free to share your personal insights and recommendations, or add a comment on how you felt after taking this movement break.


Dr. Jacqueline D. Lee works for EXOS, a global pioneer in human performance. She is the Performance Coach for IBM, driving education and solutions around proactive health and wellness in the areas of mindset, nutrition, movement, and recovery. Partnering with the IBM Global Health Promotions Department of Integrated Health Services, as well as the IBM Leadership Development Team, Dr. Lee touches a wide range of employees – from new hires to executives – working towards restoring and upgrading lives. Prior to working for EXOS, Dr. Lee spent time in the professional sports industry, taught as an Associate Instructor at a Big Ten University, and has done research in the areas of comprehensive wellness, sport management and psychology.

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7 thoughts

  1. My “go to” first step for low energy is water. Oftentimes we are dehydrated which causes low energy as well. Love the movement idea. It’s also a good idea to rest the mind with a gentle walk outside and in the office to refresh and restore the brain from the heavy cognitive load work projects can place on us.

    1. Hi Megan! True about dehydration and energy levels – thank you for that add. Watch out for my next post on hydration 🙂
      And yes, mental recovery is so very important. That’s great you have found strategies that work for you.

  2. This blog was awesome and a big help. I work in an office at a desk where it is often hard to remember to get up and move. These simple, easy, and quick stretches makes me think of other stretches that I can do easily as well to keep active even at the office. Thanks for the tips!!

    1. Hi Jasmine! I’m glad that you found the blog helpful, and hope that you are now taking charge of your own movement each day!

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