Exercise or sleep? New study weighs benefits up

By Nikki Dorrell

Exercise or sleep? New study weighs benefits up
A first of its kind study explores whether what you are giving up to exercise pays off in the end.

We all lead busy lives and in order to make time for exercise, something has got to give. Everyone knows the benefits of exercise for our overall health, however, you may not have considered whether it outweighs what you are giving up in order to include it in your schedule.

This was the subject matter of a first of its kind study conducted by University of Queensland and University of South Australia that investigated the impact of introducing an exercise routine on how we spend our time.

UQ School of Human Movement Studies research fellow Dr Sjaan Gomersall explains that while it is important to make time for exercise, the time you are are giving up could have either positive or negative health outcomes.

“When people undertake a new exercise program, the time spent in other domains, such as sleep or screen time, must be reduced to accommodate the new activity”.

“If a new exerciser chooses to reduce screen time to accommodate exercise, for example, then there will presumably be additional health benefits, given that sedentary time is a risk factor for mortality and cardiovascular disease”.

On the contrary, if someone is giving up sleep time in order to exercise, then the health benefits are reduced and ultimately lead to negative health outcomes.

The study involved 129 inactive adults aged 18 to 60 in a 6-week exercise program, taking part in circuit training, boxing or bushwalking. Participants were randomly allocated to one of three groups – a moderate or extensive exercise group (150 and 300 extra minutes of exercise per week), or a control group.

The participants were regularly monitored to determine how the program affected their lifestyle.

The findings of the study revealed that by undertaking a moderate or extensive exercise program, the time spent watching TV per day was reduced by about 50mins.

“However, results also showed that this positive health outcome was offset by participants spending an extra 30 minutes a day using computers. This may indicate they were taking work home because they left early to exercise”, said Dr Gomersall.

The amount of sleep in this case also decreased by 40 minutes per day, which equates to 20 hours of sleep lost over the 6 weeks.

The study provided some interesting results that can assist with planning a health way to include exercise in your life, as Dr Gomersall says “Educating people about the exchange in time may help to maximise the health gains associated with physical activity”.

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