THE MYFITNESSPAL BLOG UA 411: "Has Technology Really Improved Our Health?" provides 4 brief opinions about how technology has affected health in the areas of sleep, fitness, activity, and nutrition.
Expert Paul Schwartz MD, of Johns Hopkins University Sleep Disorders Center, discusses how technology can help us achieve a more objective definition of a "good night's sleep" and thus a diagnosis when problems exist. However, sleep is one aspect of health on which technology can have a harmful effect.
The problems associated with lack of sleep, which include obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, always seem to be in the news. The MyFitnessPal blog Wellness Advisor, Liz Arch, a Yoga instructor and Martial Artist, who also provides an opinion in this piece, admits that technology can wreak "havoc on our health" if we spend an excessive amount of "time hunched over computer, smartphone, and television screens".
A study posted on the website of the American College of Sports Medicine in 2011, "For Best Sleep Work Up A Sweat In The Morning", suggests how technology's use in research can help to sort out the links between restful sleep and exercise.
Scott Collier, PhD and his team of researchers at Appalachian State University "studied the effects of exercise timing on the sleep patterns " of 9 college students (6 men, and 3 women). Each performed 30 minutes of treadmill exercise at 3 different, predetermined times (7 a.m., 1 p.m., and 7 p.m. ). At night, the subjects' sleep-stage time and quality was measured with a headband monitor.
The results showed that significantly greater improvements in quality of sleep were invoked when aerobic exercise was performed at 7 a.m. compared to that performed at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Morning exercisers spent more time in light sleep (85% increase) and deep sleep (75% increase). "Exercising at 7 a.m. also caused a 20 percent increase in sleep cycle frequency."
I could not find this particular study in a journal, and thus did not examine the methods in detail. It was presented that year at the 58th Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine and the 2nd World Congress on Exercise is Medicine. The same researcher has also studied the effects of aerobic exercise (AE) timing on blood pressure and sleep in subjects who were prehypertensive, and resistance exercise (RE) timing on night-time blood pressure "dips" (thought to normally occur as a way of reducing stress on the cardiovascular system) and sleep.
In the AE study, the 7a.m. exercisers seemed to experience greater benefits of blood pressure reduction and sleep quality than those who exercised later in the day.
In the RE study it was suggested that engaging in RE at ANY time of the day might improve sleep quality as compared with no RE. The study authors also proposed that "resistance exercise may offer additional benefits regarding the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep to populations with osteoporosis, sarcopenia (muscle wasting), anxiety, or depression" who might also benefit in other ways from RE.
If the findings of these small studies on college students can be replicated in general populations, and are the same with running as with "treadmill exercise", it may be that one small way to beat some sleep problems that come with living in a high tech/stress society is to run/exercise early in the morning. Another remedy for sleep problems, especially in those who cannot engage in aerobic exercise might be to incorporate resistance exercise into training regimens.
Competitive runners who follow smart, safe training plans to prepare for races should have a good shot at sleeping well. These plans always include strength training (another term for resistance exercise), and of course call for regular aerobic exercise. Perhaps running in the morning is a way to tweak your training to improve sleep.
To get back to the MyFitnessPal article: I also appreciated the comments on fitness by expert, Paul Winsper. As easy as we wish technology would help us to become fit, he says, it's still up to the individual to make the effort. With running we must still put in the miles and pay attention to strength training and flexibility, stretching, and recovery activities.
Effects of resistance exercise timing on sleep architecture and nocturnal blood pressure
Effects of exercise timing on sleep architecture and nocturnal blood pressure in prehypertensives.
[NOTE: Those who dislike early morning running may benefit from a bit of introspection: is waking up tired because of poor sleep the reason you don't? Perhaps your sleep might improve if you change to an early a.m. session AND you incorporate resistance training into your regimen? ]
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.
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