Oh My Aching Knees!

A few years ago, my wife and I decided to think totally “out-of-the-box” in terms of physical fitness. We decided to run a half marathon. We joined the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program. It provided a schedule for training, a training program that helped you with all aspects of running as well as trainers to help you prepare for the race. It also gave both of us a way to raise money and help a good cause.

After almost four months of training, we joined the rest of our team members along with about 25,000 other runners in the Nashville marathon. We accomplished our goal: we finished the race, we raised money for a cause, and we weren’t last!!!

The funny thing was, throughout the process, I found I actually enjoyed running. I enjoyed feeling fit. Not only that, when I missed a scheduled run, I was disappointed. If I missed a few days, I felt slow and sluggish.

And throughout the entire training period, I found that I slept incredibly well.

It turns out there’s a good reason for that.

Researchers at Appalachian State University’s Human Performance Lab studied 20 adults who exercised on separate days. The participants did moderate, 30-minute workouts at either 7 a.m., 1 p.m., or 7 p.m. Researchers then monitored the participant’s sleep on each of the nights following those timed workouts.

While everyone slept better, the study found that participants woke significantly fewer times during the night when they had exercised at 7a.m. They also spent less time in REM sleep after the morning exercise. REM sleep is considered the lightest phase of sleep.  It is the phase when most people remember their dreams and many times people wake up after going through REM sleep.

Let me confess here, I haven’t been as diligent lately in my running as I have been in the past. Life seems to gets in the way of exercise at times and I’m going to simply start scheduling exercise times during my day, just as I plan everything else.

I like the healthy feeling exercise provides. And as the study says, if I want to sleep well tomorrow night, I need to get out and run tomorrow morning.

- Frank Graff

Frank Graff is a producer/reporter with UNC-TV, focusing on North Carolina Science Now, a weekly science series that airs Wednesdays, beginning in August 2013, as part of North Carolina Now on UNC-TV. In addition to producing these special segments, Frank will provide additional information related to his stories through this North Carolina Science Now Reporter's Blog!

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