Raise your hand if you think you get enough exercise per week. Now raise your other hand if you think you get enough sleep per night. Are both your hands up? If yes, kudos to you, as statistically you are in the minority among adults in the United States. If no, where do you think you are lacking? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week and at least 7 hours of sleep per night. For those of you with both hands up, are you meeting these recommendations or do you need to put a hand down? The health benefits of regular physical activity are numerous and well documented, with exercise being linked with reduced risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and several types of cancer. And we also know insufficient sleep has been linked with many chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity and depression. Getting the picture? If you were to think of exercise and sleep as prescription drugs, they would be some of the most safe, effective, and affordable drugs in history, without the significant side effects of common pharmaceuticals. Exercise and sleep also appear to be equal opportunity interventions, as the health benefits apply to both men and women of all ages, races, and ethnicities, according to the CDC. Unfortunately, approximately one-half of adults in the United States do not get enough exercise per week and one-third of adults do not get enough sleep per night. This could partially explain why nearly two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight or obese.
So why do we have such an inactive and sleep deprived population? Most of us could carve out 30 minutes per day for 5 days each week and tuck ourselves in 30-60 minutes earlier each night. So what’s the hold up? For one, starting to exercise regularly and sleep more requires behavior change, which can be difficult to initiate and stick with. Beginning an exercise program is often uncomfortable and unpleasant, especially if you are typically sedentary. The good news is there are several gentle forms of physical activity that fall in to the “moderate-intensity” category, according to the CDC:
Going for a bike ride
As you can see, there is no need to take up running or team sports if you want to get fit. It should also be noted that each form of exercise does not need to be performed all at once, as three separate bouts of walking for 10 minutes per day would count for 30 minutes and carries with it similar health benefits. An added perk is that regular physical activity has been linked with improved quality of sleep so you can be working on both aspects of health and wellness with one deed. What a deal!
So, if you find yourself not feeling well as of late, check in to see if you are meeting your basic physical activity and sleep recommendations first and foremost. If you are not, try to work up to it and see if it helps before turning to sophisticated and expensive tests, treatments, and/or procedures. If you are getting 150 minutes of exercise per week and sleeping 7+ hours per night, but are still not feeling well, then it may be appropriate to seek out an evaluation by a medical professional.
For more information regarding physical activity and sleep from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, click on the following links: