The relationship between exercise and sleep has been widely investigated over the years and it’s become obvious that sleep and exercise have a symbiotic relationship. So how can having a regular exercise routine such as Nordic walking help you drop off quicker, sleep deeper and for longer?
The impact of Nordic walking on sleep
A medium intensity session of Nordic walking uses all the major muscle groups and is a harder workout than it seems. As the technique uses natural walking movement we may not feel like we’re doing much, but it’s a ‘stealth’ exercise where the poles, extra speed and correct body posture means you’re using more energy than you realise.
When it comes to night time this physical effort will not only reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, it will also help you sleep more soundly as your body needs time to replenish essential energy stores.
Exercise also increases the quantity of deep sleep, ie when it’s difficult to wake up. The brain is releasing low-frequency delta waves that cause heart rate and respiration to slow down. This is a vital part of the sleep cycle as it’s when restoration of our immune systems occurs. So if you want to fight off disease, sleeping well is one of the best ways to do it.
When is the best time to Nordic walk for good sleep?
Some studies have shown that a morning aerobic exercise session leads to more time in deep sleep when compared to afternoon workouts. This is a hotly contested theory however as other studies found the time of day a person exercises makes little difference. In fact exercising later might come with its own benefits, as long as you finish 90 minutes before bedtime. Listen to your body to find what works for you.
But it has been proved that being outdoors in morning sunlight helps regulate our 24-hour body clock, our circadian rhythm. This is a cycle that is part of the body’s internal clock, running in the background to carry out essential functions and processes.
And it’s worth remembering what you eat and when can have a big impact on sleep. Stimulants may trigger your brain to keep your body active and a heavy meal close to lying down can impact your GI system. Aim to eat at least 3 hours before bed and give your body 12 to 14 hours without food to reset (including the hours you sleep).
The Bristol & Bath Nordic Walking Team
You can find our favourite Nordic walking poles here and if you’re looking for our advice on good kit here’s our recommendations: