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The best exercises for better sleep (that aren’t yoga)


Nov. 30, 2020 C|NET

So if yoga isn’t your jam or you just want some variety in your bedtime routine, give these other types of exercise a go for better sleep.

Does exercise really help you sleep? 

It sure does. Exercise helps you sleep in a few ways. First, it reduces stress levels, which can quiet your mind before bed so you don’t hit the pillow with thoughts racing 100 miles per hour. Second, exercise requires you to burn more energy during the day, so you’ll naturally feel more tired at night.

Physiologically, exercise works wonders inside your body, and many of these benefits may translate to improved sleep. Scientists haven’t pinpointed the exact mechanisms behind the effect of exercise on sleep, but they do know the relationship exists. Some potential connections include the endorphin rush from exercise and, when done consistently, exercise can help your body settle into a healthy circadian rhythm. 

It’s true that exercise also instigates reactions in your body that would, in theory, ruin sleep. Exercise temporarily increases cortisol levels and raises your core body temperature, two things that tell your body not to hit the hay. However, the majority of observational studies suggest that exercise — no matter what time of day you do it — promotes restful sleep.

Walking

Who it’s for: The person who needs to destress.

A nice walk outside might be the antidote to your sleep struggle. Walking at any pace is a relaxing way to wind down from the day. The combined benefits of exercise and nature exposure work together to promote restfulness. 

Try it out: Sometime in the evening, head out for a 30-minute walk (or however long you have time for). Choose your pace based on what feels good that day. Listening to calm music may enhance the effects of your walk on your sleep.

Strength training

Who it’s for: The person who needs to burn off extra energy.

Some people argue that doing intense workouts, such as weightlifting, at night disrupts sleep, but studies say otherwise. Remember, you don’t have to go all out during a nighttime strength training workout. Stick to a shorter or less-intense strength training session before bed if you’re worried you might have trouble sleeping.

Try it out: A kettlebell or a pair of dumbbells will provide a more intense burn, while bodyweight strength training makes for a lighter pre-bed workout. Pick two to three exercises and do three sets of 10 of each. Or, try a circuit. 

Jumping rope

Who it’s for: The person who needs a productive distraction. 

Jumping rope might’ve never crossed your mind as a pro-sleep workout. Due to its rhythmic nature, jumping rope can soothe anxious, racing minds before bed. The key is to count your reps. You can go as fast or as slow as you want, but either way, counting your jumps gives your mind something to focus on — something other than all of the day’s stressors. It’s kind of like counting sheep, except you reap all the benefits of exercise at the same time. 

Try it out: Do four sets of 50 jumps, resting 1 minute in between sets. 

Flexibility training

Who it’s for: The person who tosses and turns from achiness.

Aches and pains really ruin a good night’s sleep. If you struggle to get good sleep because your body hurts, try incorporating flexibility training into your bedtime routine. Stretching at night will mobilize any tight joints and loosen up stiff muscles. Using a foam roller can help, too. 

Try it out: Choose two deep stretches for each body part that hurts. Accumulate 2 minutes in each stretch, breaking the time up as needed. 

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