It’s not exactly news that folks who get plenty of physical activity are generally healthier. But did you know that it helps with sleep, too?

Past research found that the more physical activity you get during the day, the better you’ll sleep at night.1

This study focused on aerobic exercise, but here’s the thing… cardio isn’t the only activity that will help you drift off into dreamland come nightfall.

New research suggests that strength training or resistance training not only builds muscle and improves flexibility and bone density, it also gives cardiovascular exercise a run for its money in the sleep department.

Research presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology, Prevention, Lifestyle & Cardiometabolic Health Conference 2022 found that high-quality sleep is critical for cardiovascular health.2

Study author Angelique Brellenthin, Ph.D., says sadly, more than a third of Americans don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis.3

“This is the first big study to directly compare the effects of different types of exercise on sleep on a general adult population,” she explains.4

Good Reason to Add a Little Weight to Your Exercise Routine

The Iowa State University study included 386 people who were classified as overweight or obese. At the beginning of the 12-month study, all participants had sedentary lifestyles and high blood pressure.

These folks were assigned to four groups: no-exercise, cardiovascular activity only, strength training only, or a combination of strength training and cardiovascular exercise.

What did the researchers discover?

Investigators found that for participants who struggled with sleep, consistent strength training workouts were the golden ticket to dreamland.

In fact, these particular workouts helped these participants fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and feel rested and refreshed the next day when compared with aerobic workouts or not exercising at all.

Of those in the strength-training-only exercise group who weren’t getting at least seven hours of sleep at the start of the study, 42 percent increased their sleep by an average of 40 minutes. That’s impressive, but before you abandon your daily heart-loving cardio exercise, consider the other findings.

Those folks who were poor sleepers in the strength and cardiovascular exercise group reaped an additional 17 minutes of slumber. The cardio-only group enjoyed an increase of about 23 additional minutes of sleep.

According to Prof. Brellenthin, both aerobic and resistance exercise are important for overall health. However, the results suggest that resistance exercises may be superior when it comes to getting better rest at night.

“Resistance exercise significantly improved sleep duration and sleep efficiency, which are critical indicators of sleep quality that reflects how well a person falls asleep and stays asleep throughout the night,” she explains.

My Takeaway

Do you struggle with sleep? As reported here, you’re certainly not alone.

If you get regular aerobic exercise, good job! Your heart thanks you. Plus, there are countless studies supporting longevity and cognitive health benefits of cardiovascular exercise.

However, this recent study underscores the sleep-boosting benefits of resistance training, and adding a little strength training to your routine may not be as hard as you think.

If you’re new to strength training, start gradually. It’s also not a bad idea to get guidance from a professional fitness trainer who can coach you on the do’s and don’t’s.

And whether it’s cardiovascular exercise or strength training, try to avoid exercising too close to bedtime. Some research suggests intensive exercise three hours before bedtime may be disruptive to sleep.5

But if evening is the only time you can exercise, don’t despair. Instead, include a nice workout wind down, such as a short yoga or stretching session to help you calm your nervous system back down and prepare for sleep.


  1. https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article/42/7/zsz093/5473522?login=true 
  2. https://professional.heart.org/en/meetings/epi-lifestyle 
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0215-enough-sleep.html#:~:text=More than a third of,Morbidity and Mortality
    Weekly Report 
  4. https://newsroom.heart.org/news/resistance-exercise-may-be-superior-to-aerobic-exercise-
    for-getting-better-zzzs 
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20673290/