Exercise. No, Sleep! No, Do Both

by DavalosMcCormack on November 19, 2008

Some mornings I’m lying in bed, the alarm goes off and I know I’m supposed to get up and go for a run but it’s cold outside and the bed is so warm and soft and cozy. I’m torn. Angst ridden. What to do? Do I sleep or do I exercise? Turns out either way I win!

A new study found that, at least for women, exercise is good for you and can even reduce your overall risk of cancer – but only if you get a good night’s sleep. See what I mean? Run, nap, run, nap. You’ll live forever.

The study was presented at one of the biggest names in medical conferences, and by big I mean the lenght of its title. It was the American Association for Cancer Research’s Seventh Annual International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research. Just typing that puts you at risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Anyway, the study followed almost 6,000 women, 18 years and older over the course of ten years. They found that while exercise was important, its ability to reduce the risk of cancer was amplified if women reported getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis, in most cases more than 7 hours a night.

For women who exercised but didn’t get a good night’s sleep on a regular basis, that lack of sleep seemed to negate the health benefits of exercise.

Why? Well the researchers are not sure, but it could be that while exercise can stimulate the immune system and impact hormone levels, it is sleep that gives the body the time it needs to repair damage and restore you to full health.

It is a wonderful example of how separate elements combined can have a greater overall impact than individually.

For instance, some¬† years ago Dr. Dean Ornish was doing a number of studies on the ability of a very low fat diet, regular exercise and meditation to reduce a person’s risk of either heart disease or prostate cancer. What he found was fascinating.

In both cases the low fat diet and exercise were good at helping lower rates of disease, but not by a huge amount. However, when you added in the third element, the meditation, the decrease in risk was much more significant.

It’s almost as if the other two elements were waiting for meditation to really kick in their effect.

It’s a reminder that nothing works in isolation. That everything we do is connected on one level or another. So when we talk about diet and exercise. The ‘and’ is not just a connecting device, it’s a critical element.

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