Previous research has looked at the role of high-impact exercise on sleep, but a recent study is one of the first to look at how daily walking relates to better sleep in adults between the ages of 30 and 60.
For the study, the researchers enrolled 59 people with an average age of 49 and asked them to take an additional 2,000 extra steps per day—roughly equivalent to a mile—every week over the course of four weeks. Participants wore Fitbits to track their activity.
“Middle-aged or older adults are not always able to engage in high-impact exercise, and these age groups are more likely to have poor sleep,” said Alycia N. Sullivan Bisson, first author of the study and a doctoral candidate in psychology at Brandeis University. “So, we wanted to see if something more feasible like walking could make a difference.”
As reported in the journal Sleep Health, people who took more steps over the course of the one-month study rated their sleep quality better than less active people did. Women reported bigger improvements in sleep quality than men. Bisson said more research is necessary to understand this difference.
Compared to the days when they were less active, participants said they slept longer and better on the days when they walked more.
Between 50 and 70 million adults suffer from a sleep disorder. More than nine million adults over 30 rely on drugs to fall asleep, even though some of these medications have been linked to addiction, cancer, and other negative health effects.
“Recommendations for increasing daily steps could be a feasible way to improve sleep … as most Americans have a fitness tracker or smartphone with the capability of measuring steps,” the authors wrote in the paper.