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How to exercise your way to better sleep

Physical activities including walking, aerobics, cycling, gardening, golfing, running, weight lifting, yoga and Pilates could help you sleep better, according to a new study.

On the flipside, the research team found that more responsibility-oriented physical activities such as housework and childcare could degrade sleep quality.

Exercise is well known to improve sleep quality, yet the new study, to be presented on Monday at SLEEP 2015, the 29th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC in the US city of Seattle, Washington, narrows it down to hobby-exercise.

"Although previous research has shown that lack of exercise is associated with poor sleep, the results of this study were surprising," says lead author Dr. Michael 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."

Working with data on sleep habits and physical activities of 429,110 adults, the research team assessed 10 different activities in search of an association with a consistent amount of sleep.

They compared all the activities to walking and to doing no physical activity, and asked participants to report what kind of physical activity they practiced the most and asked them how much they slept each night.

They also noted whether individuals got enough sleep, seven hours being the threshold below which they considered sleep time to be insufficient in a 24-hour period.

All activities beat no activities when it came down to a question of how much their practitioners slept, except for those whose activities consisted of household chores and childcare, according to the study.

At this point, the research team compared all the activities against walking, in order to narrow down the playing field and find out if certain activities bring about more sleep than others.

They concluded that aerobics, cycling, gardening, golf, running, weight lifting, yoga and Pilates could help diminish those nights of insufficient sleep more so than simply walking.

Household chores and childcare were more likely than walking, however, to bring about insufficient sleep, according to the study.

"These results are consistent with the growing scientific literature on the role of sleep in human performance," says Grandner. "Lab studies show that lack of sleep is associated with poor physical and mental performance, and this study shows us that this is consistent with real-world data as well."


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