Sure, you could buy a fancy circadian rhythm-inspired lighting system, a weighted blanket, fancy lavender oils. Or, you could go for a walk.
So suggests new research published in the October 2019 issue of Sleep Health. In a four-week study, 59 participants with an average age of around 49 tracked their walking with a Fitbit and self-reported their sleep quality and how many hours they slept daily. One group was told to boost their daily walking by about 2,000 steps—roughly a mile—while the other group was a control group and were not told to change their walking habits in any way.
The results shed light on how hitting the pavement for a brief walk may be linked to improved sleep. As Psychology Today's Seth J. Gillihan Ph.D. wrote in a recent piece summarizing the study's findings: "Results showed that overall, the walking intervention led to significantly better sleep — but only among female participants," he writes, adding that the walking intervention enhanced sleep quality, not quantity. "More detailed analyses that focused on individuals rather than simply dividing the participants into two groups (Control vs. Intervention) found sleep benefits from walking for both men and women; on days that a person walked more than their average number of steps, they had improved sleep quality and duration." So if you've ever noticed on days when you walk more or take a workout class that you also sleep better, the data from this study seems to agree.
Of course, the study only included 59 participants, which is quite a small sample size, and the research only indicates a correlation between sleep and walking, not a causal link (i.e., there could be a third factor at play here) but it's still promising. If nothing else, perhaps the study will convince you to try and tack on a few extra laps of walking on the daily. Beyond potentially helping you catch a better night of ZZZs, walking has numerous health benefits ranging from helping your cardiovascular system to reducing stress levels.
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Well, we guess now is the time to resurrect that old "Walking Pals" group chat and get moving—we hope it helps you get snoozing, too.