Not All Types of Physical Activity Guarantee Better Sleep

Not All Types of Physical Activity Guarantee Better Sleep: Main Image
Few people would be surprised to hear that physical activity improves sleep. But what may be surprising is that, according to researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, not all types of physical activity seem to improve sleep to the same extent. The researchers, who will be presenting the results of their new study at a meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC, looked at data for 429,110 adults from the 2013 Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). The BRFSS is a federally sponsored telephone survey program that asks US residents questions about health-related behaviors, chronic diseases, and prevention strategies. Specifically, researchers examined the BRFSS data to look for relationships between the amount of sleep participants received (more or less than 7 hours per night) and ten different types of physical activity: walking, aerobics/calisthenics, biking, gardening, golfing, running, weight-lifting, yoga/Pilates, household chores, and childcare-related activities. After taking into account the age, sex, education level, and body mass index of the participants, the researchers discovered that:
  • Compared with participants who reported no physical activity in the month prior to the survey, participants who engaged in almost any of the ten types of physical activity had better sleep outcomes, meaning that they were more likely to get 7 hours or more of sleep per night.
  • However, two types of physical activity were not associated with better sleep outcomes; specifically household chores and childcare-related activities.
  • Also, those who engaged in more "purposeful" types of physical activity, such as running, yoga, gardening, and golf, had even better sleep outcomes than those who simply reported walking.

It is important to point out that the study was observational in nature and so cannot prove a cause-and-effect relationship between these specific forms of physical activity and sleep quality. For example, people who engage in more "purposeful" forms of physical activity may have other lifestyle habits that the researchers did not take into account, such as better financial security or a more balanced diet, which also may contribute to better sleep. Similarly, those who spend a lot of their time looking after children or doing housework may be more stressed, which could cancel out some of the positive effects on sleep from moving around.

Source: University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine