Exercise has a ton of benefits, and one of them is better sleep. But when it comes to sleep, are all workouts created equal?
Results from a new preliminary study suggest they are certainly not.
Turning to a treadmill, exercise bike, or walk around the block is usually where people struggling with sleep turn first. The rationale is that they know exercise will likely improve sleep and that using more energy during the day will make them more tired and boost the need for sleep.
Makes sense. But the new data presented recently from researchers at Iowa State University suggests that weight training is the superior exercise modality for people suffering from poor sleep.
The study found that resistance training added an average of 40 minutes of quality sleep for people who were regularly struggling to achieve seven hours of nightly sleep. By comparison, those who did aerobic exercise only got an additional 23 minutes.
Weight training, therefore, was almost twice as beneficial as aerobic exercise for people struggling with sleep.
The study included 386 people who were randomly assigned to one of four groups: a resistance exercise group, an aerobic exercise group, a resistance/aerobic combo group, and a no-exercise control group.
Each member of an exercise group worked out three times per week for one year and was evaluated after six months and one year.
Although any exercise improved bad sleep, the resistance group saw the most significant benefit. For those already sleeping well, exercise offered no further sleep benefits.
Strength training may be the optimal modality for sleep for a couple of reasons. One is that lifting weights promotes the release of muscle growth hormones associated with better, deeper sleep.
Another reason is that strength training creates a greater need for the body to restore and repair itself, which are activities that occur primarily during sleep.
In any event, if you’re looking to improve sleep quality, hitting the weights might help.