Daily fitness is an important part of maintaining overall health. Sedentary lifestyles can lead to numerous diseases and health conditions, and even a shorter life. Just 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day can combat these conditions and lead to a healthier you. Exercise is also a crucial component of stress relief and is even a source of joy and pride for those who participate in sports.
If you’re dedicated to your exercise routine, you probably try to make it to the gym at least a few times per week. Unfortunately, in today’s busy world, it’s not always possible to carve out a few hours for a workout.
If that’s the case, there is one thing you can do to benefit your athletic regimen outside of the gym—and it doesn’t even require breaking a sweat! Getting a good night’s sleep is a valuable and often overlooked factor in your fitness results.
How sleep benefits athletic performance
If you want to improve your overall fitness, you obviously need to go to the gym regularly. However, there are a lot of other factors that play into the athletic results you see, and one of the most important is sleep.
Every single goal that you’re working to achieve in the gym is almost impossible to reach unless you’re paying attention to your sleep health. Without sleep, the body is unable to heal, grow and recharge for your workout tomorrow. This means that you won’t be able to see the results you typically would or expect to without sleep.
When you get good enough sleep, your body produces growth hormones. In adulthood, these hormones help repair torn or overworked muscles and build them up stronger. This is essential both for athletic recovery, so your body doesn’t get fatigued, and for improvements in physique.
Additionally, getting good sleep helps you work out even harder the next day. We’ve all probably had a day where we didn’t sleep well the night before and feel absolutely exhausted as we slog through our workout.
Poor sleep can make workouts feel harder and longer and potentially hamper your ability to achieve the results you want. Although your body’s systems will still work as needed to get you through, you’ll fatigue faster, so you won’t be able to push yourself to great results. Less energy results in less energized workouts. Overall, your performance is more likely to suffer.
Fortunately, we can avoid this problem by getting adequate rest. Sleep helps the mind and body recharge so you are ready to tackle another challenging workout. It can even help you get in the right frame of mind to prepare for exercise and stick to an athletic routine or concentrate on pushing yourself mid-workout!
Sleep and exercise are even more interconnected
Sleep helps improve exercise, but exercise can also improve sleep. These two activities are practically necessary for one another.
Physical activity creates chemicals in the brain that makes you feel sleepy and can help you sleep deeper and longer at night. It can even help maintain your circadian rhythm, the internal body clock that regulates when you feel awake, tired, hungry and more.
Although the research is mixed on whether early-morning or late-night exercise is better for promoting sleep, researchers tend to believe that it really depends on the individual and the type of exercise being completed. Generally, low-intensity to moderate-intensity workouts at night will allow you to fall asleep more easily, while high-intensity workouts may keep you up a little later.
Sleep also affects diet and hunger. Reduced sleep has been shown to increase cravings and alter the way the body processes feelings of hunger or being full, which is why sleep deprivation is linked to obesity.
If you’re trying to maintain a strict diet to lose weight, or if you are making an effort to avoid junk food and eat balanced meals to improve athletic performance, sleep deprivation could stand in the way of that, as well.
Don’t sacrifice sleep for exercise!
If you’re busy to the point of needing to choose between exercise and sleep, choose sleep. Sleep is important for so many things, including focus, concentration, mood and overall health, not to mention athletic performance.
When choosing exercise in lieu of sleep, you might not heal or recharge as much as you need to, which sets you up for fatigue and performance failure the next day. But if you skip the gym one day and get a full night’s rest, you’ll be able to get a much better workout in the following day.
If sleep isn’t your forte, focus on getting at least seven hours of quality sleep a night. The improvements in your day-to-day life and your athletic performance may just surprise you!