Why balancing sleep and exercise is so important

Category: News

Our bodies are always changing. As you reach your 50s and 60s, keeping your mind and body active should be your top priority. According to new research reported by the Guardian, the most effective way to maintain your health is to focus on two vital factors: sleep and exercise.

While often overlooked, a healthy sleep schedule and exercise are closely linked. Adequate sleep provides the energy you need to live an active life, while exercise releases melatonin, the hormone that improves the quality of your sleep.

Read on to find out why this balancing act is so important and how much exercise and sleep your body needs.

The power of sleep

Sleep tends to be the first thing we sacrifice when we’re busy. While there’s always something more exciting to do, making sure you’re getting the rest you need is an important part of preserving your health.

Adults should have between seven and nine hours of sleep every night. Some signs you might be sleep deprived include:

  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling down or having a lower mood.

There are lots of factors that can influence your sleep. Some people can fall asleep in minutes, while others need much longer to drift off. It all depends on things such as your physical and mental health, life experiences, and upbringing.

Ensuring you get the right amount of sleep will let you wake up ready to tackle the day. Sleep can improve your physical health by boosting your immune system and allowing your cells to repair themselves.

Waking up after a good night’s sleep also benefits your mental health. It regulates your mood, reducing feelings of anxiety and depression as well as promoting a more positive outlook on life.

The benefits of exercise

There are so many exercising options that it can often feel difficult to know what’s best for your body. Finding a physical activity you enjoy is essential as it provides the motivation you need to stick to your exercising routine.

The NHS recommends that adults between the ages of 19 and 64 should do both muscle strengthening activities and exercise that raises your heart rate.

You should do strengthening exercises at least twice a week and should work all the major muscle groups. This doesn’t require a trip to the gym: you can build muscles through simple tasks such as lifting heavy shopping bags or carrying grandchildren, as well as relaxing activities such as heavy gardening or yoga.

You should also do at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous activity every week. Moderate exercise includes activities such as riding a bike, dancing, or brisk walking. Vigorous exercises are more intense, such as running, swimming, or skipping.

There are many benefits to regular exercise. As well as the well-known advantages like managing your weight and strengthening your bones and muscles, exercise can also reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and improves your ability to do daily tasks without falling.

How do sleep and exercise affect each other?

Researchers from University College London found that people in their 50s and 60s who regularly exercised but slept less than six hours a night had a faster decline in cognitive function than those who had the recommended amounts of both.

The decade-long study found that the participants’ skills – including memory, attention, and learning – were the same as those who had done less physical activity, emphasising the impact that a good night’s sleep has on your brain.

To receive the full mental benefits of regular exercise, you need to ensure you’re getting the recommended amount of sleep. In fact, sleep might be even more important than exercise in maintaining your cognitive function.

Balancing sleep and exercise

If you aren’t currently fitting the right amount of exercise and sleep into your schedule, don’t worry. With a few small changes to your daily routine, you can make sure you’re keeping your mind and body as fit as possible.

150 minutes of exercise may sound like a lot, but when spread evenly over five days, it’s only 30 minutes a day. Leaving the car at home and walking or cycling to your destination is an easy way to sneak in the exercise you need.

Fixing your sleep schedule is more complicated, but once you’ve put the effort into creating healthier habits, it’s easy to keep them up.

Going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day – including weekends – creates an internal clock which will make it easier for you to fall asleep and let you wake up feeling refreshed. Avoiding looking at devices like smartphones late at night and participating in relaxing activities (such as reading or meditation) can also help you drift off quicker.

If you’re still having difficulties sleeping or starting to exercise after a long break, it’s best to speak to a doctor who can provide professional advice and help you to achieve the best results possible on your health journey.

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