A new study presented at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology, Prevention, Lifestyle & Cardiometabolic Health Conference 2022 has shown that resistance exercise may be better than aerobic exercise for improving sleep quality.
The study enrolled almost 400 adults who were classified as overweight or obese. Participants were divided into four groups: one group was assigned no additional exercise as a control group, and the other three were assigned to resistance-only exercise, aerobic-only exercise, or a combination of resistance and aerobic exercise. The study took place for 12 months, and each exercise group had three supervised 60-minute exercise sessions per week (the combination group had 30 minutes of aerobic exercise and 30 minutes of resistance exercise during each session).
A variety of assessments were completed at the start and end of the study, including a self-reported questionnaire to measure sleep quality. Additionally, the researchers measured sleep duration, time taken to fall asleep, time slept vs. total time in bed or “sleep efficiency,” and frequency of sleep disturbances (such as waking up due to temperature, pain, bathroom needs, etc.).
At the beginning of the study, more than a third of the participants had poor quality sleep, and 42% of participants were getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night. In the resistance group, sleep duration increased by 40 minutes per night over the 12-month study, versus 23 minutes in the aerobic group, 17 minutes in the combination group, and 15 minutes in the control group. Sleep efficiency improved only in the resistance and combination groups, and the resistance group also improved the time taken to fall asleep.
As one of the study’s authors noted, getting a sufficient amount of high-quality sleep has been recognized as a key to overall health and cardiovascular health in particular. Poor sleep quality and lower sleep duration are associated with higher blood pressure, higher cholesterol, and greater plaque buildup in arteries.