There are plenty of beneficial reasons to make time in your schedule for a quality sweat session (think everything from weight management to stress relief). But one of the best benefits of working out, if we do say so ourselves, is that a little bit of work in the exercise department pays off in a big way when it comes to the sleep department. Because working out can help you relax and tire you out before bed, we like to think of it as a healthy part of any solid bedtime routine. And, according to a study from the University of Pennsylvania, the best way to maximize the sleep benefits of your pre-bed workout is to focus on five major modes of exercise. Have a look.
One reason that exercise works so well to help improve your sleep is that it gets your body to a point (at least after the initial jolt of energy) where it’s tired and ready to relax right when you need it most. Going for a short run in the evening will help you clear your mind of any stressors that might be weighing you down, and once the energy from that runner’s high wears off, you’ll find that your body is in a perfectly relaxed and ready-to-snooze state of being.
Not one to love the thought of a run before bedtime (or, you know, anytime)? Fret not: walking manages to have more or less the same impact as running when it comes to getting you in the right state of mind and body before bedtime. By getting yourself moving and getting your blood flowing a bit, you still reap the benefits of tiring out your body a little bit before hitting the hay, which usually spells better sleep. Plus, the pre-bedtime walk is a good way to speed up the digestion of your dinner, which also ties into a more restful sleep.
There are few forms of exercise more conducive to relaxation and mindfulness than yoga, which is why it only makes sense that a bit of yoga before bedtime would make for a better night’s sleep. While some forms of yoga are a little more intense and demanding than others, the key to achieving a sleep-conducive bedtime routine is focusing on simple flows and movements that help you unwind after a long day.
Another big reason that fitness can tie into better sleep is that good sleep tends to be associated with pre-bed activities that hold a sense of purpose. This means that forms of exercise where you have a specific goal in mind – i.e. sinking a golf ball in a hole – can help put your mind in a state of peace and relaxation before you head to bed. Not to mention, activities that take place in nature tend to help soothe your mind a bit before bedtime, too.
Even if you don’t consider yourself much of a weight lifter, the sleep benefits of pumping a little iron make the activity well worth a second thought (assuming that the muscle-building aspect wasn’t enough to win you over). When you start lifting weights, you achieve positive physical changes in your body that ultimately help you better manage everyday stressors in your life, and that in turn lends itself to a better night’s sleep. Plus, weight lifting tends to help you achieve a deeper sleep, since building muscle and deep sleep go hand in hand.
Okay, so this one might not really be on your list of go-to workouts, but gardening can rack up quite a bit of calorie burn in a short period of time, so it’s hardly something to be looked at as an exercise form for novices. Between all the different motions that gardening calls for – we’re talking lifting, squatting, digging, and a bit of walking around – you end up getting a pretty well-rounded workout from showing your flower beds a little TLC. Plus, the combination of a physically tiring and mentally relaxing activity makes for an ideal way to kick off bedtime.