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If you sleep poorly, moderate physical activity protects you from disease and health risks

If you sleep poorly, moderate physical activity protects you from disease and health risks

July 06, 2021
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Lifestyle also determines our health. How much we sleep, how we sleep, if we do physical activity, can change the risk of getting cancer or heart disease. However, if, sometimes, we can act little on the quality of sleep, if not with a few small interventions, we can however choose, immediately, a more active lifestyle because moderate physical activity can counteract the damage to health that a very bad sleep quality can bring. This is what emerges from a very recent scientific research published a few days ago in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (Huang et al, BJSM, 2021).

Quality of sleep and physical activity for health

To improve the quality of sleep we have meditation, relaxation techniques, essential oils, natural remedies and nutrition at our disposal. Sometimes, however, for work reasons or for particularly stressful periods, the quality of sleep struggles to improve with consequences on daily life and also on health. In fact, together with a lack of physical activity, even poor sleep in the long term contributes to increasing the risk of diseases such as cellular degeneration and heart problems. But is it possible that these two factors, sleep quality and physical activity, could interact and have a combined effect on health?

The experiment

To answer this question, the researchers analyzed the data of 380,000 people, aged between 37 and 73 years and participants in the UK Biobank study, which is a very large study that deals with analyzing the long-term effects of genetic predisposition and environmental factors on health. In particular, the volunteers were asked to indicate their lifestyle, how many minutes per week are dedicated to physical activity, the intensity of physical activity and the quality of sleep, reporting, for example, any sleepiness during the day, episodes of insomnia or waking up at night. The study followed the volunteers for 11 years, until March 2020. The scientists were thus able to compare the health and lifestyle of the research participants.

There is a synergy between sleep quality and physical activity

What has emerged is that, as might be expected, those who do not do physical activity, or very little, and have poor sleep quality have a 57% higher risk of getting sick than those who sleep well and practice moderate to intense physical activity. But that's not all, it also emerged that physical activity at, or, even better, a little above, the guidelines of the World Health Organization, and therefore 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity, is able to almost completely eliminate the health risk associated with poor sleep quality. Therefore, there is a synergy between sleep and physical activity. To ensure health and well-being, a good choice is to act on both factors, bearing in mind that, if sleep fails to improve due to a particular condition in which we find ourselves, staying active can still counteract the damage that a poor sleep can cause.

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