Is arthritis pain keeping you from getting a good night’s sleep? Is daytime fatigue bringing you down? Exercise can help. It’s been proven that even light exercise can help you get the rest you need.
In a 2013 National Sleep Foundation poll, people who described themselves as light exercisers were 17 percent more likely to say “I had a good night’s sleep” every night or almost every night on work nights than non-exercisers. Vigorous exercisers were almost 30 percent more likely to say they slept well.
A 2014 study published in the Journal of Rheumatology separated a group of people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) into two segments. Half participated in a 12-week at-home exercise program and half did not. The exercise group had “significant improvement in sleep quality and fatigue” compared to before the program started; the non-exercise group did not see that improvement.
When and What Type of Exercise Is Best?
Don’t worry too much about when to get going. Exercising at any time, even in the evening, seems to be better for sleep than not exercising at all.
If you’ve been sedentary a while, start by exercising in a warm pool, says orthopaedic surgeon Vonda Wright, MD. “Get in chest-high water and walk forward and back for as long as you can tolerate. Then, turn to the side and walk right and then left.” Water walking is a great way to work your entire body without putting undue stress on your joints, thanks to the buoyancy of the water, says Dr. Wright. Look for a heated pool at your local YMCA. Some physical therapy centers also have pools that permit public access.
If a pool isn’t an option, go for a walk. Just siting less will get you started on the path to a restful night. Dr. Wright recommends standing up to talk on the phone and walking more while you’re at work.
If exercise doesn’t help your sleep right away, keep at it. In people with insomnia, exercise appears to take longer – as much as 16 weeks – to work its magic, according to one study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine in 2013.
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