NAPERCISE? WHY NAPS MIGHT BE GOOD FOR FITNESS
MyFitnessPal.com says there’s an ‘exercise’ class in the UK that sounds too good to be true. Jodi Helmer introduces an article for the Under Armor blog with information about a fitness session that lets participants take a nap. The Davis Lloyd Clubs website says, “Our mid-afternoon studio sleep session is 45 minutes long and is designed to re-invigorate the mind, the body and even the odd calorie.”
Most of Helmer’s piece provides reasons why napping may be beneficial to health and fitness. She indicates it can be more effective than a caffeine boost in staving off afternoon fatigue, helps with heart health and weight loss, and may improve athletic performance and creativity.
Helmer references a research study for each reason. EARNED RUNS fully examined one of the studies several months ago that involved the Stanford University varsity basketball team. It described the improved performance of athletes who were instructed to add 2 hours more than their usual amount, with a minimum of 10 hours of sleep each day. Players were told to add a nap if needed to make up sleep lost because of game and travel schedules.
Another study found napping to be better at relieving mid-day sleepiness than caffeine or extending night time sleep by roughly 75 minutes. But the study admitted the level of sleepiness detected by the study’s sensitive measurements could reflect a need for more sleep or just as easily be in the range of normal.
The research on cardiovascular health showed that midday napping, especially of longer duration was beneficial to patients with high blood pressure (BP). The lead investigator concluded that it “is associated with lower 24-hour blood pressure, and enhanced fall of BP in night, and less damage to the arteries and heart”, with the possibility of decreased need for medication “to lower BP”. The fall in BP was low, only about 5-7 mmHg, but even decreases of 2 mmHg are thought to reduce stress on the circulatory system.
Research into napping and creative problem solving showed that naps in which the subject experienced REM sleep can improve this skill. Letting time pass between efforts to solve a problem, called incubation, also helped but not as much as the REM sleep napping. However, don’t expect naps to make you better at problem solving in general, they won’t!
It is possible that taking a snooze break during some afternoons will help achieve health, fitness, and career goals especially if the extra slumber time doesn’t interfere with getting a good night’s sleep. Famously, two of Britain’s PM’s (Prime Minister) Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher were known to regularly depend on such breaks at specific times of the day. Other historical dozers include Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, and Eleanor Roosevelt. Some were equally well known for sleeping very few hours at night.
Is napping beneficial? You won’t know its personal effect until you try. Having “fitness class” rather than “nap” written into a work calendar can help camouflage the real purpose of an hour away from the office. Many don’t have this degree of schedule flexibility however. Paying for a nap may seem like a luxury if you’re not a PM. But if it helps deal with significant health issues (weight control, hypertension, safe driving) access to a commercial or DIY “napercise” session would be wonderful. Thanks to Helmer and Under Armor for putting this piece together.
BRIDGE TO PHYSICAL SELF
Running, walking, and fitness activities enable us to experience our physical selves in a world mostly accessed through use of fingers on a mobile device.
EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
New! Search Box
Earned Runs is now searchable! Check it out...