Most Physical Activity Helps You Sleep Better

Certain types of physical activity help you sleep better, while others might leave you tossing and turning, a new study finds.

Researchers looked at data from a survey of more than 429,000 American adults. They found that activities such as walking, bicycling, running, weight lifting, aerobics, calisthenics, gardening, yoga, and golfing were all linked to better chances of a good night’s slumber.

But, people who got physical activity from household chores and childcare had a greater risk of poor sleep, according to the study.

Study leader Michael Grandner, a psychiatry instructor at the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, found these findings surprising.

“Not only does this study show that those who get exercise simply by walking are more likely to have better sleep habits, but these effects are even stronger for more purposeful activities, such as running and yoga, and even gardening and golf,” Grandner said in a university news release. “It was also interesting that people who receive most of their activity from housework and child care were more likely to experience insufficient sleep – we know that home and work demands are some of the main reasons people lose sleep,” Grandner added.

He explained that the study’s findings “are consistent with the growing scientific literature on the role of sleep in human performance. Lab studies show that lack of sleep is associated with poor physical and mental performance, and this study shows us that this is consistent with real-world data as well.”

Kids Not Drinking
Enough Water

Many American children and teens aren’t consuming enough liquids – especially water – and that lack of hydration could affect their physical and mental health, a new study suggests.

The findings “highlight a potential health issue that has not been given a whole lot of attention in the past,” study author Erica Kenney, a postdoctoral research fellow in social and behavioral sciences at the Harvard School of Public Health, said in a Harvard news release.

Children acclimate to heat more slowly than adults, and can be more susceptible to dehydration. That, coupled with an already impaired hydration status, can cause physiological problems such as neurological issues, increased demands on the kidneys, and heat stroke.

The Harvard researchers said that proper hydration is crucial for physical processes such as circulation, metabolism, temperature regulation and water removal. Excessive dehydration can cause serious health problems, they said, but even mild dehydration can cause headaches, irritability, poor circulation, reduced physical performance, and compromised mental functioning.

However, “the good news is that this is a public health problem with a simple solution,” noted study senior author Steven Gortmaker, a professor of the practice of health sociology. “If we can focus on helping children drink more water – a
low-cost, no-calorie beverage – we can improve their hydration status, which may allow many children to feel better throughout the day and do better in school.”

The study indicated that by increasing water intake by one cup, or eight ounces per day, hydration was improved.

Improving Health

Research led by the University of Aberdeen found that eating up to four ounces of chocolate a day can help reduce the risk of heart disease and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Researchers analyzed data of nearly 21,000 adults taking part in the EPIC-Norfolk
study, which is tracking the impact of diet on the long-term health of 25,000 men and women in Norfolk. They concluded that there is no evidence that cutting
out chocolate lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Those who ate the most tended to be younger, have a lower weight, waist to hip ratio, and blood pressure, were less likely to have diabetes, and were more likely to regularly engage in physical activity – all of which adds up to a favorable cardiovascular disease risk profile, researchers said.

Eating more chocolate was also associated with higher energy intake and a diet containing more fat and carbohydrates and less protein and alcohol.

Dr. Tim Chico, consultant cardiologist at the University of Sheffield, said, “This study adds to the evidence that people who consume chocolate tend to have lower rates of cardiovascular disease, although such studies cannot say whether the chocolate is the cause of this protective effect.”

However, it is also clear that chocolate has the potential to cause weight gain, which is unequivocally bad for cardiovascular health.

According to the study, published in the journal Heart, “If you are a healthy weight, then eating chocolate (in moderation) does not detectibly increase risk of heart disease and may even have some benefit. I would not advise my patients to increase their chocolate intake based on this research, particularly if they are overweight.”