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Forget Counting Sheep. Walk Your Way to Better Sleep

Are you tired of being tired? Would you rather be dreaming than watching late-night TV?

Millions of Americans suffer from poor sleep. Being active throughout the day helps you relax more at night. If you give your body the rest it needs, you'll be rewarded with many health benefits, including:

  • Clearer thoughts
  • More energy
  • Positive mindset
  • Healthy weight maintenance
  • Muscle strength
  • Stress relief
  • Better decision-making ability
  • Stronger immune system

A good night's sleep is important to your overall well-being - and being active can improve your sleep cycle. When you sleep well, you'll wake feeling more rested and alert. Daily walks relieve insomnia and other sleep disorders by:

  • Loosening tight muscles
  • Reducing stress
  • Promoting longer, deeper sleep periods known as slow wave — the phase of sleep that helps restore the body
  • Lessening symptoms of depression and anxiety

Sleep Like a Log

How well and how long you sleep affect how you feel. Science has proven that good, sound sleep is necessary for health.

  • University of Chicago researchers found that lack of sleep reduces the amount of human growth hormone. This hormone is responsible for the body's fat-to-muscle ratio. Restful sleep creates a balance of the hormone and leads to better health.
  • When you haven't slept well, your body craves energy. So glucose is released in the bloodstream. This slows your metabolism and can cause weight gain. On the other hand, good sleep helps you maintain a healthy metabolism.

Without enough sleep, you feel sluggish and tired—you don't want to exercise. The result is a negative cycle that leads to many problems.

Right balance of sleep and exercise creates a positive cycle for your body. It works both ways: activity helps satisfy your body's need for sleep, and a better sleep pattern motivates you to keep moving.

Walk to Sleep

Take the first step toward healthier sleep and exercise by walking. These ideas will help:

  • Ease yourself into a walking program. Move at the pace that's right for you. Walk as far and as long as is comfortable, working up to longer, brisker walks. The steady introduction of activity gives your body time to get used to it. This reduces the chance for sore muscles - a common excuse to give up too quickly.
  • Take a short stroll before and after dinner. This helps soothe your nerves while burning calories. The use of energy combined with the stress release relaxes your body and mind, helping you sleep better and longer.
  • Companionship helps you stay motivated. Partner with a friend or family member, or even take the dog for a walk.
  • Cool down after walking. Once you're used to walking, keep this in mind: the ideal walk is brisk enough to make you break a sweat, but not so fast that you run out of breath. Make the last bit of your walk slower. This brings your heartbeat down to its resting rate, which prepares your body for a decent night's sleep.

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