Exercise for Better Sleep 

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Exercise for Better Sleep

Thumbnail image by LEEROY Agency from Pixabay

By Mark Grevelding 

Getting older doesn’t have to be associated with poor sleep quality. If you have trouble sleeping and exercise is not a part of your lifestyle, you may want to consider getting more physically active. As we celebrate National Sleep Awareness Week, March 13 through 19, now is a good time to explore why exercise can help you snoozing better.  

Several studies have concluded that those who experience poor sleep are less active than those with healthy sleep cycles. According to a Sleep Foundation article, a poll revealed that roughly 76 to 83% of respondents who engaged in exercise activities reported very good or fairly good quality of rest. For those who did not exercise, this figure dropped to 56%. Interestingly, there is a bidirectional relationship between exercise and sleep. Exercise helps you rest better, and better sleep gives you more energy to exercise.   

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Why Does Exercise Improve Sleep? 

Research studies aren’t completely clear on why exercise helps people doze better, but there are several contributing factors.  Exercise releases endorphins, hormones that promote a sense of well-being, which helps to reduce stress and muscular tension. This allows the mind and body to relax into a slumber. Muscle fatigue and the lowering of body temperature post-exercise also contribute to a more restful slumber.  

Exercise Recommendations for Improved Rest? 

Most studies recommend 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise in order to experience an impact on quality of rest.  According to a John Hopkins Medicine article, moderate aerobic exercise increases the amount of slow-wave (deeper) rest you get and equates the effects of aerobic exercise on rest as similar to those of sleeping pills. However, the article indicates more research is needed to compare physical exercise to medical treatments for insomnia.  Moderate aerobic exercise includes brisk walking, jogging, swimming, biking and some vigorous daily chores.    

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The Cooling Factor 

Most studies recommend exercise in the morning or early afternoon to allow body temperature to decrease to normal levels.  Water exercise is often touted for its slumber-inducing benefits because the cooler water temperature more effectively lowers body temperature, contributing to better rest. The water’s resistance also fatigues muscles more efficiently, which can help combat insomnia.     

Mark Grevelding is the founder of PoolFit, a fitness app and website that includes over 120 water fitness & in-home workouts suitable for older adults, including dozens of aerobic workouts.  

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