While exercise alone will not solve all sleep problems, it is another factor that will help you improve your quality of sleep. Studies show that people who exercise at least a couple of times a week are less likely to suffer from sleep disorders. Studies at the Netherlands Institute for Brain Research found that exercise helped elderly people to improve their quality of sleep by reducing the disturbances in their circadian rhythms. They also found that men in their seventies who exercised in the day slept better than those who didn’t exercise frequently. So it is a good idea to make a habit of exercising more each day so that you find it easier to sleep at night.
One note of caution, though: avoid vigorous exercise too near to bedtime, as this will have a stimulating effect that is obviously detrimental to getting to sleep. If you do participate in strenuous exercise, make sure it is at least three hours before your bedtime. You should ideally practice more strenuous exercise earlier in the day, and later on in the day do a more gentle form of exercise, like yoga, which helps you to wind down. In fact, yoga is an ideal de-stress workout, and even if you are unable to join a class, it is well worth learning a few basic poses from the many DVDs on the market. Yoga an hour before bedtime will help you release tension and physically prepare for sleep.
For those of you who want to delve into yoga more deeply, the specific yoga poses that can help with insomnia are shirshasana, sarvangasana, paschimot-tanasana, uttanasana, viparit karni and shavasana.
To improve your fitness levels in the long term, you must come from a mindset that tells you are creating a new holistic, healthy lifestyle. So many people initially build a strong resolve to get fit only to give up after three months and drift back to their old unhealthy ways. Fitness clubs can happily oversell memberships because they know that 80 per cent of people who join stop going after three months. If all members of any given gym turned up at once, they would not be able to cope.
To improve your level of physical fitness, you must become more active. You can start by simply walking more. It is so easy to drive everywhere these days, but if you get the opportunity, walk instead. For example, don’t get frustrated if you can’t park right outside the restaurant or shop you visit; park a few hundred meters away and walk. Look at the lack of parking spaces as an opportunity to get a little exercise. It is nice to have a short walk after leaving a restaurant, as it will help you to digest your meal and burn a few calories. Another tip is to avoid escalators and elevators, and always use the stairs if you can.
When you incorporate these ideas into your daily life, they become habits that you get into and enjoy. They also cost you very little time and become part of your everyday approach to fitness. There is always another way of viewing things, and if you reframe your attitude towards exercise, you will never again be disappointed because an elevator is not working or you can’t find a parking space.
Work on your fitness slowly by “doing a little each day and building up to a level that feels good for you.