We've all had those nights when sleep is just not in the cards, and the answer for many of us is an extra cup of coffee the next day.
But according to new research published in the journal Physiology & Behavior, getting that needed boost of energy can be achieved with a simple walk up the stairs. Or more accurately, 10 minutes worth of walking up and down the stairs.
The study followed 18 female university students (an admittedly small sample size) who slept less than 45 hours per week (approximately six-and-a-half hours a night). They assigned them to either 10 minutes of low-to-moderate stair walking, taking a 50mg caffeine pill or a placebo. Results showed that taking the stairs energized the women better than the caffeine did.
"We found, in both the caffeine and the placebo conditions, that there was not much change in how they felt," study co-author Patrick O'Connor, a professor at the University of Georgia's Department of Kinesiology, says in a press release. "But with exercise they did feel more energetic and vigorous."
In an interview with PsyPost, O'Connor notes that this type of exercise can be done in any weather.
While the feeling experienced by the subjects was temporary, it also increased motivation to do cognitive work. The research is supported by other findings over the years.
The notion that exercise can help fight fatigue isn't exactly groundbreaking, but it's this idea of folding it into your workday to focus your brain that can really make a difference.
In 2013, Daily Beast writer Gregory Ferenstein found that doing 30 seconds of high-intensity exercise gave him a cognitive boost beyond what coffee had been doing for him.
The idea of folding exercise into your workday to focus your brain can really make a difference.
There's also plenty of evidence, of course, to support caffeine's benefits. As Psych Central notes, it can help with reaction time and mental alertness, though it's also been found that more than moderate amounts (approximately 300mg, or one to two cups of coffee) tend not to help, and in fact, can be detrimental to your performance.
The takeaway? On days when you're tired, instead of grabbing that extra cup of coffee in the afternoon, try a 10-minute exercise break instead. It's certainly not going to hurt, and hey, it might even help.