Is There a Link Between Exercise and Sleep?

Many people today don’t sleep enough or get quality sleep, which affects all aspects of life. How can you change that naturally and safely and skip the sleeping pills? Get moving!

Exercise has historically been associated with better sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends three different activities for better sleep. One is strength training.

Kevin “KC” Reed, NASM certified personal trainer at Benefitness NYC, shared how strength training and physical activity can impact sleep quality.

Is There a “Right Time” to Exercise?

There was a theory that exercising and strength training at night would disrupt quality of sleep, so it was best to get your workouts done in the morning. But that’s not necessarily true for everyone. “What’s important is that you lift weights and exercise. When it’s done really depends on the individual,” said Reed.

Overtraining may raise cortisol levels and could interfere with sleep and therefore muscle growth, mood and energy levels,” explained Reed. “Otherwise, exercise and strength train whenever you can get it done. Just listen to your body.”

Current research debunks the myth that exercising at night will derail a good night’s sleep. Participants of one study published in the European Journal of Sports Science who did moderate-intensity exercise that ended 90 minutes before going to sleep didn’t report any issues with their sleep cycle.

A meta-analysis published in the journal Sports Medicine reviewed whether evening exercise disrupted sleep patterns. Researchers concluded that recommendations against exercising at night were not supported by the studies, “in fact rather the opposite.”

Which is Better? Cardio or Lifting Weights?

Both aerobic exercise and resistance training have been found to have a positive impact on sleep quality.

However, strength training triggers physical changes in our bodies that helps regulate bodily functions linked to the metabolic system, metabolic rate and blood pressure, which all contribute to reducing stress and getting a better night of sleep. In one study published in Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research resistance training was found to be “more effective than interval aerobic training in reducing blood pressure during sleep in hypertensive elderly patients.”

A review of thirteen studies published in Sleep Medicine Reviews found that “chronic resistance training improves all aspects of sleep, with the greatest benefit for sleep quality.”  The results “suggest that resistance exercise may be an effective intervention to improve sleep quality.”

Bottom Line

Especially as people get older, many experience more problems with sleep which can have serious consequences like an increased risk for accidents, illness, and trouble concentrating. Strength training can help elder adults improve their quality of sleep and get stronger at the same time, which leads to less stress and a better quality of life.

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