What’s the best time to exercise? When you can fit it in—even if that’s right before bed. You may have heard that exercising at night can make it harder to fall asleep, but that claim doesn’t add up: According to the National Sleep Foundation, a study of 1,000 people found that there were no significant differences in sleep quality between people who exercised within four hours of going to sleep versus those who had worked out earlier in the day.
No matter what time of day you exercise, you’ll likely sleep better: In the National Sleep Foundation study, 83 percent of “vigorous exercisers” got “very good” or “fairly good” quality of sleep, compared to just 56 percent of non-exercisers. And working out before bed could actually improve your sleep quality further: In a review of 23 different studies, published in Sports Medicine, people who exercised within four hours of bedtime had more hours of deep sleep than those who didn’t do those workouts, says RunnersWorld.com.
Getting quality sleep is a big deal to your risk of early death, risk of disease and also your weight loss efforts. When you sleep less, you eat more… and not quality, nutrient dense foods. One study, published in Clinical Nutritional and Metabolism Care, found that when people got fewer than seven hours of sleep, their daily calorie intake increased by 14 percent, with most of those extra calories coming from high-carbohydrate foods.
Burn more calories with a before bed workout and get better sleep to control your appetite. Our fitness experts at The Leaf have created this quick exercise before bed to help you on your wellness and weight loss journey! Just remember to give yourself a one-hour break after the exercise. This will help your body cool down and prepare for slumber—just as you would after a warm bath.
Get started with some strength training.
Strength training at any time of the day improves your sleep. However, a before-bed strength session can mean you’ll sleep more soundly, waking up less frequently during the night. Of course, it can also help with your weight loss goals: According to The Harvard Gazette, scientists found that men who performed 20 minutes of “daily weight training” experienced less age-related belly fat gains than those who did the same amount of cardio work.
This short before bed workout is lower intensity, so you won’t get too amped up—or too sweaty—in the hours before bed. Perform all sets of each exercise before moving to the next exercise. Rest for one minute between each exercise and set.
Exercise 1: Squat to Chair (or Bed)
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes pointed slightly out from parallel. Push your hips back to initiate the squat, controlling your descent as you bend your knees to descend until you sit in the chair. As you descend, keep your chest up and your weight on your heels. Keep the weight of your body in your heels and press back to standing without using your hands. If this is too hard, perform only the lowering portion of the squat—sitting down—then use your hands to stand back up and repeat. Perform four sets of five repetitions each. Over time, try to increase the repetitions.
Exercise 2: Elevated Push-up
Place your hands on the seat of chair or on the fourth step of a staircase. Assume the classic push-up position: Arms perpendicular to your torso, your body forming a straight line from head to heels. Maintaining this rigid body line, bend your elbows to lower your chest towards the seat. To protect your shoulders from pain and injury, keep your elbows relatively tight to your sides rather than flaring them out at a 90-degree angle. Press back to start. If this is too hard, try a wall push-up instead. Perform four sets of four or more repetitions each.
Exercise 3: Supine Glute Bridge
Lie face-up on a mat with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your arms at your sides, palms up. Keeping your feet flat on the floor, squeeze your glutes to raise your hips forcefully off the floor until your body forms a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. As you’re lifting, keep your knees and thighs parallel—don’t let them pull together. This will engage your hip musculature. Pause for a second at the top of the exercise, then slowly return to the start position. As you’re raising up, don’t let your heels come off the floor. Perform four sets of five repetitions each. Over time, try to increase the number of repetitions in each set.
Exercise 4: Wall Stick Up
Stand facing away from a wall, with your feet about six inches away from the wall. Your head, upper back and butt should all be in contact with the wall—and they should stay in contact with it throughout the exercise. Put your arms straight up overhead, with the backs of your hands, elbows and forearms in contact with the wall. Now slide your arms down the wall by bending your elbows, keeping your hands, forearms and shoulders in contact with the wall. Keep lowering until your elbows come as close as you can bring them to your sides. (You should feel a strong contraction between your shoulder blades.) Pause, then slide your arms back up the wall until your arms are overhead. Perform four sets of five repetitions each. Over time, try to increase the number of repetitions in each set, aiming for eight repetitions.
Finish up with some calming stretches in bed.
When people with insomnia do yoga, they become more likely to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, says The National Sleep Foundation. Calm your own body down with this six-pack of restorative stretches after your strength workout, and help put yourself on the path to dreamland. Sit on the edge of the bed for the first three stretches, then lie on the bed for the last three.
Stretch 1: Circle Your Ankles
Sit on the edge of the bed with both feet on the ground. Lift one foot off the floor and circle your ankle 10 to 15 times in each direction. Repeat with the other foot.
Stretch 2: Lift Your Heels
Place both feet back on the floor. Press the balls of both feet into the floor and lift your heels off the ground, stretching the midfoot. Perform 10 to 15 lifts.
Stretch 3: Stretch Your Side
Sit up tall. Place your right hand on the bed by your side and lift your left arm to the ceiling. Arc the left arm up and over the head until you feel a slight stretch in your side. Reverse the movement to the starting position. Repeat six to eight times per side.
Stretch 4: Rock with Your Knees at Your Chest
Lie on your back on the bed. Bring your knees towards your chest, and grab your legs just below your knees. Rock back and forth gently a few times.
Stretch 5: Single Knee to Chest
Still on your back, straighten your legs. Now bring just one knee up to your chest while the other remains outstretched on the bed. Hug the lifted knee to your chest, then switch legs. Hug each knee three times.
Stretch 6: Lying Arm Circles
Let your legs go straight again on the bed. Spread your arms out so your body forms a “T” shape. Keeping your arms straight, perform 10 arm circles forward, then 10 back. Repeat one more time.
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*Always speak with your doctor before starting an exercise routine.