Physical activity can counter effects of lack of sleep

Excercise NZ media release: 7th July 2021

ExerciseNZ has endorsed new research which shows physical activity and good sleep work together to counter negative health effects of poor sleep.

The new study finds physical activity and quality sleep have synergistic effects on health and has been published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Higher levels of physical activity can significantly counteract the negative health impact of poor sleep, ExerciseNZ chief executive Richard Beddie says.

“This new research shows exercise helps many health issues including inadequate sleep, obesity and type-two diabetes, impaired immune functioning, cardiovascular disease, mood disorders, dementia, and even loneliness,” he says.

“We need to keep in mind that this activity only helps people who meet current  World Health Organisation recommended physical activity levels. Less than 50 percent of Kiwi adults meet these levels and just seven percent of children in New Zealand make these guidelines.

“More than 37 percent of Kiwis don’t get enough sleep and poor sleep is known to be a factor correlated to poor health outcomes.

“That’s everything from cardiovascular disease to mental well-being. So, knowing that getting enough physical activity can help offset these health risks are extremely powerful.

“This is especially important for Māori and Pacific people, who show particularly high rates of short sleepers. Given the ethnic disparity in sleep duration, targeted interventions for more support of physical activity for Māori and Pacific peoples are particularly crucial.”

The long-term study followed more than 380,000 middle-aged men and women who are part of the UK Biobank.

Individuals were excluded from participating in the study if their baseline assessments indicated a history of cardiovascular disease, cancer, sleep or class three obesity.

Around 15,500 participants died during the monitoring period. About 26 percent of the deaths were from cardiovascular disease; 58 percent were from cancer; 12 percent resulted from coronary heart disease; five percent from stroke.

People who were younger, female, slimmer, and financially better off, consumed more fruits, vegetables, spent less of their days sitting, had no mental health issues, never smoked, drank less alcohol, and were more physically active tended to have healthier sleep scores.