You definitely know by now that your quality of sleep is super important for staying healthy, especially as you get older. But what can you do if you just aren’t getting the best shut-eye every night and don’t want to deal with the harmful side effects? According to a new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the answer could be as simple as getting up off the couch and moving more.
Because the effects of both poor sleep quality and exercise have been studied numerous times separately, researchers decided they wanted to see how the two were linked. In other words, if you don’t sleep well, could you counteract the side effects of that — fatigue, weight gain, higher risk of cardiovascular issues, and a higher risk of mortality, to name a few — with exercise? To answer that question, they followed over 380,000 participants with an average age of 55 and subjected them to a series of questionnaires, and interviews about their diets, exercise patterns, and lifestyles over the course of 11 years. They also measured their Metabolic Equivalent of Task (MET) minutes of physical activity per week, which is defined as the amount of energy (in this case, calories) that a person burns from one minute of exercise.
Part of what they discovered confirms what science has long concluded: Poor sleep (as in, not sleeping long or deeply enough) can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality, as can a lack of physical inactivity. However, what they were able to pinpoint is that when participants got 600 MET minutes of exercise per week, which is equivalent to 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of rigorous exercise, they didn’t see these same harmful side effects that usually come with a lack of sleep.
While these researchers definitely aren’t suggesting you can out-exercise a generally bad sleep schedule, it’s a relief to know that if you regularly get in fitness classes or gym sessions you won’t necessarily see the those same health issues from poor sleep quality.