HEALTHY LIVING

Even Light Physical Activity Can Help You Sleep Better At Night

06/16/2015 07:00 am ET | Updated Dec 02, 2015
Shutterstock / Blazej Lyjak

If you want to improve your sleep game, get moving.

Exercise has long been associated with healthy sleep. But a new study finds that when it comes to boosting the quality of your shut-eye, not all types of physical activity are created equal.

Activities including running, biking, weightlifting, yoga and even gardening are associated with better sleep habits compared to no physical activity, the University of Pennsylvania research found.

However, other types of physical activity -- including childcare and housework -- are associated with worse sleep habits. Of course, it's possible that this may be due to the fact that parents are more likely to engage in these activities and may experience worse sleep for other reasons, but the study's authors didn't draw a connection.

The researchers analyzed previously collected data on sleep and physical activity from more than 400,000 adults, who were asked how much time they spent doing various physical activities in the past month and how much sleep they usually got in a 24-hour period.

They found that every type of physical activity, with the exception of childcare and housework, was more highly correlated with sufficient sleep than a lack of physical activity. Even light activity like walking and gardening was enough to make a difference.

"Those who got some activity, no matter what it was, were more likely to get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep," the study's lead author Dr. Michael Grandner, a sleep research and professor of psychiatry at the university, told The Huffington Post.

Grandner said he was surprised to find that simply walking was enough to improve sleep habits. However, the effects were stronger with "purposeful" activities like yoga, running and gardening.

If you've started getting more active and haven't seen a change in your sleep yet, keep trying. Research has shown that while an exercise regime may not have an immediate impact on sleep, it can result in significant improvements in sleep quality and duration when sustained over the course of a few months.

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