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Exercise, Sleep, and Your Waistline

When it comes to managing your health and your weight, it’s no secret that exercise and sleep are huge factors.

You know that exercise will help you burn off some extra calories and boost your metabolism. But you also know that sleep is essential for your overall health and well-being.

Better to skimp on sleep and get up early to workout?

Or better to sleep in and skip the gym for another day?

Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that. We need exercise to sleep better but we also need sleep to exercise. And when it comes to weight management, we need both.

So let’s take a closer look at how exercise and sleep affect each other and which one takes the lead when it comes to managing your weight.

The Exercise & Sleep Connection

If you’re looking to get a better night’s sleep, it’s time to lace up those running shoes.

A study by the National Sleep Foundation found a 65% improvement in sleep quality for participants who performed 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a week. [https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/study-physical-activity-impacts-overall-quality-sleep]

That means that something as simple as a brisk walk for 30 minutes, 5 times a week can help you feel more rested and refreshed.

Want Muscle? Get More Sleep!

If you want to see big results from your workouts, you’ve gotta catch some zzz’s!

Sleep is crucial when it comes to exercise recovery…and recovery is where the post-workout magic happens!

As we rest, our body is busy repairing the microscopic muscle tears from our last weight training session. As these muscles repair, they come back bigger and stronger; increasing your strength and boosting your metabolism.

If you’re not seeing the results you’d like from your gym sessions, the answer may be an earlier bedtime. Make sure that you’re getting adequate sleep to help your body repair and recover.

GOOD SLEEP TIP: Establish a regular relaxing bedtime routine.  A regular nightly routine helps the body recognize that it is bedtime. This could include taking warm shower or bath, reading a book, or light stretches. When possible, try to avoid emotionally upsetting conversations and activities before attempting to sleep. Give it try!

Does lack of sleep affect gym performance?

If you’re still thinking of hitting that 6am spin class after a late night out, you may want to reconsider.

An ACSM study showed that sleep deprived participants had a slower response time and fatigued much quicker than when they were well rested. [https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2013/12000/Does_Central_Fatigue_Explain_Reduced_Cycling_after.5.aspx]

The study participants also reported a higher RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) and were more likely to quit their workout early.

The conclusion? This doesn’t mean that you should skip activity altogether on those groggy days. Instead consider a lower intensity activity such as walking or yoga and leave the high intensity training for days when you’re well rested.

To sleep or to train? Which one will help you button your jeans?

When it comes to weight management, both exercise and sleep are important. But if you had to focus on one thing only, it turns out sleep trumps exercise.

One study compared weight loss efforts of sleep deprived adults versus those who were fully rested. The sleep deprived group rested for only 5.5 hours while the fully rested group got a full  8.5 hrs of shut-eye. [http://annals.org/aim/fullarticle/746253/insufficient-sleep-diet-obesity]

The results? Those with limited sleep lost less body fat and more lean muscle mass.

So does this mean you should just forget about exercise?

In a word…NO.

Exercise still has tremendous health benefits so you don’t want to quit altogether. You may need to temporarily reduce the intensity of your workouts if you’re not getting adequate rest.

Once your sleep game is strong, you can resume those higher intensity workouts and have energy to spare.

Having trouble winding down at night?

Add some sleep hormones to your diet!

In fact, did you know that it has been suggested that foods that contain naturally occurring Melatonin (dubbed the “sleep hormone”) may be a better alternative than over-the-counter supplements? [https://sleepjunkies.com/tips/can-cherries-enhance-sleep-quality/]

To help you catch more Zzzzzzz tonight, click to try my Sleepy Time Cherry Smoothie Recipe. This recipe is made with tart cherry juice – an ingredient that contains Melatonin, and has been proven to help you sleep better. Plus, it just happens to taste pretty great too!


As the founder of Live Wise Coaching, and a practicing integrative health & wellness coach, Cheryl specializes in supporting women in their 40’s and beyond to reclaim their health and sense of well-being through nutrition, movement, mindset and lifestyle choices so they can live healthy, happy, and more active lives.

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