Exercising at least 150 minutes a week can help people sleep significantly better and feel more alert during the day, a new study has suggested.
A survey conducted on more than 2,600 men and women, between ages 18 to 85, found that 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a week, provided a 65 percent improvement in sleep quality.
People also said that they felt less sleepy during the day, compared to those with less physical activity.
The study, lends more evidence to mounting research showing the importance of exercise to a number of health factors.
Among adults in the United States, about 35 to 40 percent of the population had problems with falling asleep or with daytime sleepiness.
“We were using the physical activity guidelines set forth for cardiovascular health, but it appears that those guidelines might have a spillover effect to other areas of health,” Brad Cardinal, a professor of exercise science at Oregon State University and one of the study’s authors said.
“Increasingly, the scientific evidence is encouraging as regular physical activity may serve as a non-pharmaceutical alternative to improve sleep.
After controlling for age, BMI (Body Mass Index), health status, smoking status, and depression, the relative risk of often feeling overly sleepy during the day compared to never feeling overly sleepy during the day decreased by 65 percent for participants meeting physical activity guidelines.
Similar results were also found for having leg cramps while sleeping (68 percent less likely) and having difficulty concentrating when tired (45 percent decrease).
Paul Loprinzi, an assistant professor at Bellarmine University and lead author of the study said that it is the first study to examine the relationship between accelerometer-measured physical activity and sleep while utilizing a nationally representative sample of adults of all ages.
“Our findings demonstrate a link between regular physical activity and perceptions of sleepiness during the day, which suggests that participation in physical activity on a regular basis may positively influence an individual’s productivity at work, or in the case of a student, influence their ability to pay attention in class,” Loprinzi said.
Cardinal said that past studies linking physical activity and sleep used only self-reports of exercise.
He said that the danger with this is that many people tend to overestimate the amount of activity they do.
He added that the take-away for consumers is to remember that exercise has a number of health benefits, and that can include helping feel alert and awake.
The study was out in the December issue of the journal Mental Health and Physical Activity.