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Staying active during weight loss may improve sleep and help keep the pounds off

Photo: PAVEL IARUNICHEV/iStockphoto

If you’re on a weight-loss journey, staying active may boost the duration and quality of your sleep – helping you stay on track to achieve your goal, according to a recent study out of Denmark.

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen and Hvidovre Hospital analyzed sleep data from nearly 200 adults who had a body mass index between 32 and 43, which is considered obese. After sticking to a calorie-controlled daily diet for eight weeks, participants lost weight – and also experienced improved sleep duration and quality. They then were assigned to one of four weight-loss maintenance groups and followed for one year.

Individuals either participated in four exercise sessions a week, took the weight-loss drug liraglutide, took a placebo, or took a combination of the drug and placebo. Sleep duration was measured using data from accelerometers, and the participants self-reported sleep quality.

Findings show that individuals in the group that exercised maintained sleep improvements from the initial diet phase, while those in the other groups experienced a relapse. Additionally, the participants who slept less than six hours a night or had lower quality sleep at the beginning of the study gained more weight during the maintenance period.

Liraglutide treatment showed no significant effect on sleep duration or quality compared with the placebo.


“It was surprising to see how losing weight in adults with obesity improved sleep duration and quality in such a short time, and how exercising while attempting to keep the weight off preserved improvements in sleep quality,” lead study author Adrian Bogh, a medical student at the university, said in a press release.

Added co-author Signe Torekov, a professor in the university’s Department of Biomedical Sciences: “The fact that sleep health was so strongly related to weight-loss maintenance is important since many of us don’t get the recommended amount of sleep needed for optimal health and functioning. Weight loss maintained with exercise seems promising in improving sleep.”

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