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Declining Fitness tied to Poor Sleep, Study Finds

Update Date: Oct 07, 2014 10:08 AM EDT

Declining physical fitness can hurt sleep, a new study reported. Researchers from the University of Georgia discovered a relationship between one's physical activity level and sleeping ability.

"This kind of study is novel," Rodney Dishman, a professor of kinesiology in the College of Education at the University, said. "In the past, studies mostly used self-report as a means of researching physical activity or measured fitness just once. However, this study closely examines the fitness changes in men and women over a long period of time using an objective measure of cardiorespiratory fitness."

For this study, the team headed by Dishman examined data spanning 35 years collected by the Aerobics Centers Longitudinal Study. The study tracked more than 8,000 participants between 1971 and 2006, aged 20 to 85. The researchers measured the participants' cardiorespiratory fitness on a treadmill every two years, on average. There was a total of four sessions done at the Cooper Clinic located in Dallas, TX.

The researchers reported that at the start of the study, none of the participants complained about any sleeping problems. Over time, they noted that many of the participants started to lose their cardiorespiratory fitness. During the second or third clinic session, some of them no longer had the same level of physical fitness that was displayed during the first visit. Overall, people's treadmill endurance declined during each subsequent session.

During a check-up, the participants had to complete a questionnaire that asked them about their health, particularly their sleeping ability. The researchers found that for people aged 51 to 56, every one-minute decrease in their endurance level was tied to an increase in sleeping complaints by 1.7 percent in men and 1.3 percent in women.

The researchers stated that people typically start losing their fitness at the age of 45 if they stop exercising regularly. In order to prevent this, Dishman recommends adults to follow the Federal Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines state that adults should log in 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week.

"Fitness is much harder to sustain if you don't exercise consistently. Staying active won't cure sleep complaints, but it will reduce the odds of them. The more active you stay, the better off you'll be " Dishman said according to Medical Xpress. "Our findings give an incentive for adults to maintain fitness and continue exercising."

The study was published in the journal, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercises.

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