Last weekend, I raced after my toddler around the park for an afternoon and was shocked that my fitness tracker showed I walked the equivalent of 3.5 miles. Exhausted, I decided to count the mother-son outing as fulfilling my daily fitness requirement. But new research shows that when it comes to reaping the full health benefits of exercise, my park play date may not be the optimal form of physical activity.
As most of us know, scientific evidence shows that regular exercise can help us manage weight, improve mental health and mood, boost brain power, strengthen bones and muscles and reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and some cancers. Research has also suggests that individuals who clock at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week sleep better and are more alert during the day.
But a University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine study found that forms of exercise such as running, yoga, biking are associated with better sleep habits than housework or child-care activities. To better understand how various forms of physical activity affect sleep, researches analyzed data on nearly 43 adults from the 2013 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and calculated the relationship between 10 different types of activities and the typical amount of sleep. According to a university release:
Compared to those who reported that they did not get physical activity in the past month, all types of activity except for household/childcare were associated with a lower likelihood of insufficient sleep. To assess whether these effects are just a result of any activity, results were compared to those who reported walking as their main source of activity. Compared to just walking, aerobics/calisthenics, biking, gardening, golf, running, weight-lifting and yoga/Pilates were each associated with fewer cases of insufficient sleep, and household/childcare activity was associated with higher cases of insufficient sleep. These results were adjusted for age, sex, education level, and body mass index.
“Although previous research has shown that lack of exercise is associated with poor sleep, the results of this study were surprising,” said Grandner. “Not only does this study show that those who get exercise simply by walking are more likely to have better sleep habits, but these effects are even stronger for more purposeful activities, such as running and yoga, and even gardening and golf. It was also interesting that people who receive most of their activity from housework and childcare were more likely to experience insufficient sleep – we know that home and work demands are some of the main reasons people lose sleep.”
Researchers will present their findings this week at SLEEP 2015, the 29th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC.
Previously: Can regular exercise improve your quality of sleep?, Superathletes sleep more, says Stanford researcher, The high price of interrupted sleep on your health and Why your sleeping habits may be preventing you from sticking to a fitness routine
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