Is There a Link Between Fitness Levels and Sleep?

You//Fitness and Health

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For many people getting out of bed in the mornings can be a struggle. We have all been there, hitting the snooze button on our alarm to get an extra ten minutes sleep in the morning, always feeling like we haven't slept enough.

Conversely many of us will try and extend our day by not getting to bed early in the evening, always wanting to watch a little more TV or maybe sacrificing a few hours sleep to meet a deadline at work. However, a lack of sleep can be detrimental to our health and wellbeing.

The quality of your sleep directly affects the quality of your waking life, including your mental sharpness, productivity, emotional balance, creativity, physical vitality, and even your weight. For whilst you may think your body and brain shut down when you go to sleep the opposite is true, it is a time for biological maintenance to ensure your body is restored to its best.

There are any number of studies on sleep, examining every aspect of it and the effects it has on our bodies. However, a recent study from the University of Georgia has found a link between a person's fitness level, specifically cardiorespiratory fitness, and sleeping ability.

The study, which was recently featured in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, saw Professor Rodney Dishman and his team analyse data collected over a thirty-five year period. One of the key findings was that as fitness levels dropped the subjects' sleep quality also diminished.

"When participants lost a minute on their treadmill time, they experienced a greater risk of sleeping problems," Dishman said. "Our findings give an incentive for adults to maintain fitness and continue exercising."

The Aerobics Centre Longitudinal Study, followed over 8,000 men and women from 1971 to 2006 and measured the cardiorespiratory fitness at an average of two year intervals.

"This kind of study is novel," Dishman said. "In the past, studies mostly used self-report as a means of researching physical activity or measured fitness just once. However, this study closely examines the fitness changes in men and women over a long period of time using an objective measure of cardiorespiratory fitness."

Following the initial medical examines and exercise tests non of the participants, aged between 20 and 85, reported sleeping problems. However, over time a significant number of participants lost their cardiorespiratory fitness, and as fitness levels diminished so did their sleep quality.

The data showed that for each minute decrease in treadmill endurance between the ages of 51 and 56, sleep complaints increased 1.7 percent for men and 1.3 percent for women. Per minute of treadmill decline, the odds were around 8 percent higher for sleep complaints at the second or third visit.

"Fitness is much harder to sustain if you don't exercise consistently," Dishman said. "Staying active won't cure sleep complaints, but it will reduce the odds of them. The more active you stay, the better off you'll be."

To read the study in full click here

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