How Fitness Clubs Can Increase Engagement by Promoting Exercise’s Sleep Benefits | Athletic Business

How Fitness Clubs Can Increase Engagement by Promoting Exercise’s Sleep Benefits

Mental Health Q Rcode

Research suggests that sleep and exercise are bidirectionally related, such that each impacts the other. When we get quality sleep, it enhances our motivation to work out and can improve our exercise performance. And one overlooked benefit of regular gym visits is that it helps the body achieve restful — and quality — sleep.

Sleep problems are common

Almost 35 percent of the general population has sleep difficulties, and about 7 percent of adults have been diagnosed with a sleep disorder. Many of these are due to insomnia, which is when a person has difficulty falling or staying asleep.

Sleep issues often occur alongside other mental health issues, especially anxiety and depression. Both of these mood disorders can alter brain arousal and make achieving a calm state of mind difficult.

Although sleep and mental health issues coincide, there are studies that show a causal role. When researchers disrupt sleep and track daily mood, they confirm that sleep disruptions worsen mental health. This shouldn’t surprise new parents.

Another research strategy is to collect baseline data about how much we habitually sleep, and then ask for sleep extension beyond our typical sleep durations. This can improve wellbeing, even in individuals who do not believe they are sleep-deprived.

When sleep issues develop, some of the first symptoms include a more negative attitude and a lack of daily energy. Even a single night of inadequate sleep worsens mood and reduces insulin sensitivity, underscoring the importance of sufficient, restorative sleep.

Sleep issues

Those who have difficulty falling asleep or awakening are at a higher risk of developing anxiety and depression symptoms, respectively. Although these sleep problems may be caused by stress-related mood disorders, sleep issues usually precede mood disorder diagnoses and are related to their severity.

Sleep issues are so common in those with mental health challenges that they are part of the diagnostic criteria for generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and major depressive disorder, in addition to many other types of psychiatric illness.

Stress can lead to persistent anxious thoughts that keep the brain highly alert, even before bedtime. This vigilant state of mind can delay sleep onset and reduce total sleep time. A vicious cycle can result where inadequate sleep leads to more daily fatigue, which makes us more prone to worrying and negative thoughts, further reducing sleep quality.

Interrupt the cycle

Breaking out of this cycle is easier when we exercise. Research confirms that mild sleep complaints often resolve as individuals shift from a sedentary to active lifestyle. And randomized controlled trials confirm that exercise interventions improve sleep, even in those with chronic conditions or advanced age.

Some sleep benefits are realized even when workouts are very low-intensity. For example, mild forms of physical activity, such as more daily steps, have proven effective. And while regular exercise is best, even a single workout is associated with better sleep that night.

The most robust sleep and wellbeing benefits come from moderate to vigorous exercise, especially when workouts are consistent. As long as workouts do not occur too close to bedtime, an exercise routine improves daily rhythms of daytime alertness and nighttime relaxation by supporting strong circadian rhythms.

Intensity influences benefits

There is evidence that higher intensities have a stronger impact on sleep quality than low intensities. One reason for this may be that higher exercise intensities tend to burn more calories. This use of energy and the need for muscle repair may stimulate restorative processes that help us sleep better.

Also, regular exercisers challenge their body temperature regulation every time they break a sweat, and research suggests this has a conditioning effect that supports greater consistency in falling asleep.

The adaptive benefits of exercise can help us embrace a more consistent sleep-wake pattern, but the duration of sleep time has added benefits. This is especially true for those who are trying to reach their full athletic potential.

Many studies have identified athletic advantages of getting more sleep. Interestingly, these benefits occur even when study participants are asked to spend more time in bed than is normally needed to feel refreshed. This suggests that we may not be good judges of exactly how much sleep time we need.

From research to practice  

Every health goal that a gym-goer seeks requires a healthy sleep habit, including the goal of feeling better and having more daily energy. Current mental health trends suggest that quality sleep may now be more important than ever.

Gym staff and personal trainers can help to shape better sleep routines among those they serve. Results matter because they lead gym-goers to share their fitness journey with others. They increase referrals and retention. Recruitment and new memberships may also increase by conveying the benefits of exercise on sleep.

Clubs and fitness facilities can also encourage those with serious sleep problems to seek medical care. This is crucial for many individuals who suffer from snoring, insomnia and sleep apnea. Friendly conversations about sleep habits can help members begin to notice if they are experiencing the sleep advantages of better exercise habits, perhaps without even realizing it.

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