A few months ago, we wrote about how sleep apnea can hinder your ability to exercise by making it more difficult for sufferers to breathe during workouts. However, it is also important to know that researchers have found that regular exercise can also help reduce the severity of sleep apnea and improve the overall quality of sleep.
The 2011 sleep apnea study, conducted at the University of Pittsburgh School of Sleep Medicine by researcher Christopher Kline, PhD, involved 43 sedentary adults with moderate to severe sleep apnea. Half of the participants were placed on an exercise program that involved 30-40 minutes of brisk walking four times each week and two days of resistance training each week. The other half of the participants simply stretched and worked on flexibility over the same timeframe.
After 12 weeks of the exercise program, the study participants had improved their sleep apnea symptoms by an average of 25 percent, with their sleep apnea episodes dropping from 32 to 25 per hour. The group that did not exercise saw a slight increase in their sleep apnea symptoms. In addition to improving their sleep apnea, those who exercised also reported feeling more alert, less fatigued, sharper during daytime activities.
Other Benefits of Exercising for Sleep Apnea Sufferers
In addition to directly helping sleep apnea symptoms, researchers added that regular aerobic exercise and strength training workouts could also help overall health, which in turn could further help improve sleep apnea issues.
First and foremost, regular exercise could help patients lose weight, which in turn can ameliorate sleep apnea. Even losing ten percent of your body weight can positively affect sleep apnea symptoms, though it is important to note that a large minority of sleep apnea sufferers are not overweight or obese.
Secondly, researchers believe that regular exercise can improve heart health, which may cancel out cardiovascular issues that many sleep apnea patients suffer from. For example, sleep apnea patients often have high blood pressure, while exercise lowers blood pressure.
Surgical Sleep Solutions to Sleep Apnea
As more research is conducted on sleep apnea and exercise, doctors and scientists are discovering that the relationship is a complex and complicated one: sleep apnea makes it more difficult to exercise for a number of reasons, while exercise makes sleep apnea less severe for a number of reasons.
At Surgical Sleep Solutions, we deeply understand the myriad of ways sleep apnea can affect our patients’ health and we are committed to helping those with OSA get the best treatment possible. Many of our patients report that after sleep apnea surgery, they are much more able to exercise, lose weight, and improve their health – and that they are finally able to get restful sleep at night.