Not getting enough rest at night can be truly dangerous to your health. Sleeping less than 7 hours for a longer period of time can lead to serious problems, such as heart attack, diabetes, weight gain, weakened immunity and depression. Other negative effects of sleep deprivation include memory issues and lower levels of concentration and creativity.
There are numerous ways to improve sleep quality. Engaging in an aerobic exercise like walking is one of them. Walking is an activity that can help you maintain or improve your overall health. Many times underrated, this type of workout can bring numerous benefits not only for the body, but for the mind as well. Among many others, walking can turn out to be an efficient exercise to combat insomnia and rest better at night.
The Effects of Exercise on Sleep
Medical experts have been analyzing the relationship between exercise and sleep for quite some time now. Both survey and epidemiologic studies have confirmed the link between the two. According to scientists, exercise can reduce sleep disturbances like insomnia, decrease the risk of sleep apnea and prevent symptoms of restless legs syndrome. How does it exactly happen? Well, working out influences sleep in various ways.
First of all, there’s a direct impact on your body. A workout session, no matter if it’s an aerobic exercise like brisk walking or perhaps strength training, requires energy and stamina. Therefore it’s normal that, at the end of the day, you get more tired and fall asleep quicker.
At the same time, exercising reduces stress hormones and helps you release a high level of endorphins, the so-called “feel-good chemicals”. This allows you to let go of your worries, to remove negative thoughts and calm your mind. A calm, less busy mind will be the pillar of a good night’s rest.
Direct Link Between Walking and Sleep
Walking in particular has turned out to be one of the best exercises to help you sleep. This, of course, has been scientifically proven by numerous studies carried out over the years.
In 2016 Japanese researchers from the University of Occupational and Environmental Health Iseigaoka investigated the impact of a 4-week walking program on sleep quality. 490 healthy working individuals took part in the program, which involved a daily target of 10.000 steps. After analyzing the results, scientists concluded that walking has a truly positive influence on sleep. More exactly, this aerobic exercise improved participants’ sleep latency, sleep duration and perceived sleep quality.
A more recent study examined the effects of a a 12-week walking intervention on sleep quality among sedentary healthy adults. 54 people, aged 19 to 36, took part in the program. The findings showed that walking on a daily basis had a significant improvement in participants’ both sleep duration and quality.
A 2021 research, conducted by scientists from the University of Sidney and University College London, investigated the relationship between exercise, sleep and lifespan. According to researchers, brisk walking has the potential to neutralize the health risks associated with poor sleep, such as heart disease, cancer and early death. Scientists recommended 2 hours and 30 minutes of brisk walking per week to enjoy a healthier and longer life.
Keep Track of Your Walks
To make the most of your walks, it’s advisable to begin tracking your activity. This can help you in many and diverse ways.
First of all, by tracking your physical activity you’ll know precisely how much you’re walking and see if you’re meeting the guidelines recommended by health experts. Second of all, this will help you stay accountable with your fitness goals and motivate you to be more active and implicitly improve your health. You’ll also have the chance to analyze the progress made over time, understand where you came from and take delight in your achievements.
You can easily monitor your movement using your smartphone, which you carry with you almost everywhere you go. All you have to do is download a free pedometer app like our own ActivityTracker. The app will automatically record your walks during the day and inform you about the number of steps taken, distance covered, calories burned or time spent physically active. You’ll have the opportunity to set and adjust various goals and monitor your progress along the way.
Keep Track of Your Sleep
Another useful thing you can do is to start monitoring your sleep as well. Why? Well, there are several reasons why you should consider this option.
In the first place, you’ll know the exact amount of sleep you get every night, which is truly important for your health. Secondly, tracking will allow you to identify patterns in your sleep habits and find the way to get the best possible rest. At the same time, you’ll be able to discover how many hours of sleep you need and which is the best time to wake up. This will help you function properly and be more productive throughout the day.
In order to keep track of your sleep it’s not mandatory to purchase an additional gadget. You can do it with the aid of your mobile phone. Just install an app like Sleep Cycle for example and you’re all set. The app uses the built-in microphone to record your sleeping activity and monitor your movement in bed and track your sleep stages. Sleep Cycle will then display the results through relevant data and graphs and help you improve your rest at night.
It’s worth mentioning that you don’t need to keep the phone under your pillow or next to you in bed. It’s enough to turn on the app and place it
on your nightstand or nearby on the floor.
You need to exercise to sleep better and longer. There’s no question about it. This doesn’t necessarily mean you should hit the gym, start lifting weights or do high-intensity workouts. According to scientists, it’s enough to engage in a simple aerobic exercise like walking to improve not only the quality, but also the duration of your sleep. Just make sure you stick to the recommended guidelines and are active for at least 30 minutes each day to really rip the health benefits.