Weight Lifting or Cardio: Which is Better for Sleep?

The debate rages on between cardio and resistance training.

Which is better for you? Each has its own merits and benefits for specific goals. But when it comes to sleep, focusing more on resistance training is the way to go, according to new findings.

Researchers looked at 386 adults who met the criteria for overweight or obesity and were previously inactive. Participants were divided into groups: no exercise, aerobic exercise only, resistance training only, or a combination of aerobic and resistance exercise. They performed 60 minutes of exercise 3 times per week for 12 months. They then completed various questionnaires about their sleep quality throughout the year.

The findings:

  • Sleep duration increased by nearly double the amount in the resistance group as opposed to the aerobic group. The combined exercise and control groups saw modest increases in sleep duration.
  • Sleep efficiency increased in the resistance group and the group that performed aerobic exercise and resistance training, but not in the aerobic only and control groups.
  • The time it takes to fall asleep decreased in the resistance group only.
  • Sleep quality and sleep disturbances improved some in all groups.

The takeaway:

Sleep is essential for good health. Aerobic exercise has long been the standard recommendation to increase sleep quality. But there have never been any studies to compare it to resistance training until now. Lack of sleep can lead to weight gain, inflammation, diabetes, and an increased risk for heart disease. These findings point to resistance training like weight lifting, bodyweight exercises, and resistance band workouts to be the superior exercise for getting better sleep.

“If your sleep has gotten noticeably worse over the past two stressful years, consider incorporating two or more resistance exercise training sessions into your regular exercise routine to improve your general muscle and bone health, as well as your sleep,” suggests study author Angelique Brellenthin, Ph.D.

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