Strength training and stretching are two of the most beneficial things we can do for our body. Strength training helps build our muscles, keep us strong and undoes the age-related process of muscular atrophy, while stretching improves our range of motion, encourages blood flow and keeps us supple.
However, one common thread between these two practices, despite them both dealing with our muscles, is that they help you sleep. It's worth keeping a set of the best adjustable dumbbells and your best yoga mat by your bed.
The research comes from a study published in the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry (opens in new tab) and examines resistance training and stretching's effects on patients with chronic insomnia. Studying a group of insomniacs over four months, the cohort was split into three groups: a control group, a resistance training group, and a stretching group.
The researchers write: "The results suggest no significant differences between four-month resistance exercise vs. stretching for improving insomnia severity and objective and subjective sleep in patients with chronic insomnia.
"However, both the resistance exercise and stretching treatments led to significantly greater effects than in the control group," indicating both kinds of exercise resulted in better sleep, and they were as good as each other.
Other research (opens in new tab) has since confirmed "muscle-induced factors are likely to contribute to the sleep-promoting effects of exercise". Need to drop off? Make sure you work those muscles.
There are other ways to get your muscles to relax. For example, the best foam roller is one way to dig into your muscles to ensure they're fully relaxed and there's no tightness after a particularly demanding gym session. Using a foam roller to iron out any knots in your muscles is a bit like getting a massage – painful at the time, but the resulting comfort should ensure deeper sleep.
Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and News Editor at Fit&Well, covering all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.
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