Exercise proven to be better than a morning coffee - and could fix broken sleep patterns

It could also help combat chronic sleep deprivation, researchers say.
Would you ditch your morning coffee to go for a run instead? (Picture: Adobe Stock)Would you ditch your morning coffee to go for a run instead? (Picture: Adobe Stock)
Would you ditch your morning coffee to go for a run instead? (Picture: Adobe Stock)

Doing a brief bit of exercise in the morning could give you a bigger boost than a shot of espresso, new research suggests.

A study from the University of Portsmouth claims that going for a run or bike ride first thing in the morning - instead of having a coffee - can not only give you more energy, but help those who suffer from sleep deprivation. It's thought that up to 40 per cent of people around the world don't get enough sleep.

Consequences of chronic sleep deprivation include cardiovascular disease, obesity, neurodegenerative disorders, and depression. In the short term, a lack of sleep can reduce cognitive performance (CP), which takes a toll on your attention span, judgement, and emotional state.

The university found that cognitive performance improves during a bout of moderate intensity exercise, regardless of a person’s sleep status or oxygen levels.

Dr Joe Costello, from the University’s School of Sport, Health & Exercise Science (SHES), said: “We know from existing research that exercise improves or maintains our cognitive performance, even when oxygen levels are reduced. But this is the first study to suggest it also improves CP after both full and partial sleep deprivation, and when combined with hypoxia. The findings significantly adds to what we know about the relationship between exercise and these stressors, and helps to reinforce the message that movement is medicine for the body and the brain.”

The study, published in Physiology and Behaviour, involved two experiments, each with 12 participants (24 in total). The first looked at the impact of partial sleep deprivation on a person’s cognitive performance, and the second examined the impact of total sleep deprivation and hypoxia. In both, all participants experienced an improvement in cognitive performance after a bout of 20 minutes of cycling.

“Because we were looking at exercise as a positive intervention, we decided to use a moderate intensity programme as recommended in existing literature”, added Dr Costello. “If the exercise was any longer or harder it may have amplified the negative results and became a stressor itself.”

The study was a collaboration between the University of Portsmouth, University of Chichester, University of Surrey, Teesside University, The University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo, Japan, and Sao Paulo State University in Brazil.

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