The last post discussed the importance of getting as much good, quality sleep as possible in general and specifically for active adults.  Better sleeping patterns are a result of an effective fitness and wellness program.  One big reason is muscle and energy system recovery occur during the nocturnal hours, when the exerciser is asleep. Lack of sleep will result in a lack of recovery, therefore leading to counterproductive workouts week in and week out.  Which modality of training yields a better impact on sleep quality, endurance or strength training?  Beginner exercisers will increase their exercise adherence by focusing on strength training and using aerobic training as an addendum, no matter what their goals are.

As discussed in the last post excessive endurance exercise can wreak havoc on the human body.  One major negative response is sleep pattern disruptions.  In an article published in July 2007 by the American Family Physician Organization titled ” Common Problems In Endurance Athletes,” they stated that running more than 20 miles per week is a regimen that can lead to sleep disturbances.(1).  That doesn’t sound like excessive, it all depends on the individual performing the running.  An elite level runner who has efficient biomechanics can perform high volume of exercise with far less stress on the body than the average runner.  It can be derived that doing less than 20 miles per week would be an adequate volume to elicit a healthy sleep response from running.  Once again fitness level and biomechanics will play a major role in just what kind of a response is elicited.  Exercise is very much a test and evaluate endeavor.

Generally speaking, leading a more physical lifestyle will lead to better sleeping patterns.  Falling alseep faster, longer duration in a deeper sleep and more.  Where many novice exercisers get tripped up is how much exercise is too much.  For the beginner exerciser strength training by design is less about duration and more about increasing intensity, or weights.  Strength training in itself is less likely to lead an exerciser into overexercising due to it’s nature.  The goal is to increase strength by increasing weights.  Not by doing longer strength training sessions.  In contrast for novice exercisers the goal is to increase duration of aerobic exercise.  The tendancy for aerobic exercise to be misused by a beginner exerciser is greater than that of strength training by their design.

The saying ” less is more” hasn’t quite beeen adapted by anybody in the fitness industry as of yet.  The lightning fast rise of CrossFit facilities and the Spartan Races won’t help any either.  CrossFit is based on alot of different concepts, but the one major concept is pushing yourself harder than you did the day or the week before.  To an extreme in alot of cases, but certainly to a degree where overtraining syndrome can be obtained.  One major sign of overtraining is interrupted and low quality sleep.  In an article from the New York Times from September of 2007 titled ” Sleep After Hard Workouts?  You Must Be Dreaming?” the author cites the two major factors to sleep disturbances from exercise are increasing duration and instensity.  Dr. Chedniak is the president of The American Academy Of Sleep Medicine and he points out that increasing duration and intensity can lead to the release two cytokines(proteins) that make people drowsy and increase time they are asleep.(2).  CrossFit is a philosophy based on ” more is better.”  Exercise to failiure and exhaustion is expected and success isn’t recognized unless that point is reached.  Many of their facilities offer 3,4 even 5 time per week workout package options for their members.  The average person looking to lose weight with above average hopes for success and without an extensive exercise background is at a big risk to end up in an overtraining state.  The Center For Disease Control recognizes the sleep benefits from strength training on their website  stating in an article titled, ” “Growing Stronger, Strength Training For Older Adults”.  “As with depression, the sleep benefits obtained from strength training are comparable to treatment with medication without the side effects or expense.”(3)   The article refers to older adults suffering from depression and ways to mitigate that and the aging process in general.

To conclude, the potential is there to overexercise with strength training.  There is a greater risk with aerobic exercise due the ease of increasing duration and the accessibility to aerobic exercise modalities.  Walkers, runners and cyclists are able to step out of the house and perform a long duration workout without the inconveneince of driving to a facility to use equipment.  The ” more is better” mantra with exercise is a major component to most of the current exercise trends, leading to overtraining and very poor nocturnal habits for those who participate.

1.  American Family Physician.  2007 July 15;76(2)237-244.

2.  New York Times article.  ” Sleep After a Hard Workout?  You Must Be Dreaming.” Gina Kolata, September 13, 2007.

3.  Center For Disease Control.    ” Growing Stronger Strength Training For Adults.” February 24, 2011.


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