Michael Hunter, MD on Medika Life

Strength Training and Sleep

WHICH HELPS WITH SLEEP? STRENGTH TRAINING or aerobic activity? You probably know that aerobic activities promote good sleep, but you may be surprised to hear that resistance training can lead to better sleep.

I recently wrote about the positive association between strength training and longevity.Weight-lifting and LongevityRUN, SWIM, JOG, OR WALK. So many cry out for all of us to get more physical activity. But are we being remiss in not…medium.com

But today, I want to focus on how you can use resistance exercise to facilitate better sleep.

Strength training: Types

Resistance training can build muscle mass, increasing your overall metabolic rate. Hang on to that thought, as we’ll return to how the resulting muscle fatigue and recovery can promote better sleep.

Let’s look at some of the benefits of resistance training, whether with bands, weightlifting, or the use of your body weight. Here are some forms of strength training:

  • Muscular endurance. This approach uses sustained exercise to increase muscular endurance. Think high repetitions using light weights or your body weight.
  • Muscular hypertrophy. Muscle building takes advantage of moderate-to-heavy weights to promote muscle growth.
  • Circuit training. You cycle through various exercises for this full-body conditioning approach with minimal or no rest between them.
  • Explosive power. Use power and speed to maximize your power output. Trained athletes often use explosive power exercises to improve explosive movements in their sport.
  • Maximum muscular strength. Here, you use a low number of repetitions (typically two to six) and heavier weights to increase your overall strength. Stay away from this unless you are experienced and have mastered your form and technique.
Photo by ALEXANDRE DINAUT on Unsplash

Strength training: Benefits

There are numerous health benefits associated with strength training. Let’s look at three of them.

1. Strength training makes you stronger

With strength increases, you should be able to perform your activities of daily living better, whether carrying a heavy bag of groceries or walking to the neighborhood market.

While we all can benefit from resistance exercises, the approach may be essential for older adults.

2. Strength training and fall risk reduction

Do strength training, and you will likely lower your chances of suffering from a traumatic fall. One review, including over 23 000 adults over age 60, discovered a one-third reduction in falls among those who did an exercise program incorporating balance, resistance, and functional training.

Practice weight training, use resistance bands, do tai chi, or practice bodyweight exercise and reap the benefits.

3. Strength training and blood sugar levels

Did you know that strength training can lower the risk of developing diabetes? Furthermore, it can often help those with diabetes to better manage it.

How does strength training work its magic? Resistance training removes glucose (a sugar) from your blood, sending it to our muscle cells. Our blood sugar levels can improve with the resultant increase in muscle mass.

Here’s some proof: A study of over 35 000 women revealed a nearly one-third (30 percent) reduction in the chances of developing type 2 diabetes for those engaging in strength training (compared with those who did not do strength training).

4. Strength training and calorie burn

Did you know that strength training can help you burn calories more efficiently? Here is how strength training works its magic: It increases our metabolic rate.

5. Strength training and heart health

Do strength training regularly, and you may reduce your “bad” LDL cholesteroldrop your blood pressure, and improve your blood circulation.

I have presented five benefits of strength training, but there are many more. You can improve your self-esteem, increase flexibility, make your bones more robust, etc.

Photo by Kate Stone Matheson on Unsplash

Strength training: Promoting better sleep

We have better quality sleep with strength training-induced muscle fatigue and our body’s recovery process. What’s the secret sauce?

Listen to Dr. Alicia Pate, speaking to Healthline: “A 2017 review finds that regular resistance exercise improves all aspects of sleep, with the greatest benefit being sleep quality.”

Resistance training helps the body produce a chemical called adenosine, which promotes sleep. Adenosine is blocked by caffeine, incidentally.

Dr. Pate observes that “these resistance benefits on sleep are less when combined with aerobic training or aerobic training alone.”

A recent study looked at nearly 400 overweight or obese adults. These inactive subjects also had high blood pressure.

Over one-third (35 percent) of the subjects had poor quality sleep at the study start. Looking at the relationship between exercise and sleep, the researchers report that among the four out of ten not getting at least seven hours of sleep at the study’s start:

  • Sleep increased by 40 minutes for the resistance exercise group
  • Sleep increased by 23 minutes in the aerobic exercise group
  • Sleep increased by 17 minutes in the combined exercise group
  • Sleep increased by 15 minutes in the control group

In addition, the approaches that incorporated resistance training (resistance training, with or without aerobic exercise) appeared associated with better sleep efficiency. The aerobic and no exercise groups had no improvement in sleep efficiency.

The time to get to sleep, or sleep latency, improved by three minutes in the resistance-only exercise group. The other groups experienced no improvement.

Strength training: My take

The research findings will compel me to focus more on resistance training, even as I continue my walking regimen. With age, sleep is becoming a bit more challenging.

I am pleased to learn that resistance exercise may help me. I’ll keep you posted on the results of my little personal experiment. I know that the resistance workout needs to be challenging.


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Michael Hunter, MD
Michael Hunter, MD
I received an undergraduate degree from Harvard, a medical degree from Yale, and trained in radiation oncology at the University of Pennsylvania. I practice radiation oncology in the Seattle area.

Michael Hunter, MD

I received an undergraduate degree from Harvard, a medical degree from Yale, and trained in radiation oncology at the University of Pennsylvania. I practice radiation oncology in the Seattle area.

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