Canadian and Australian researchers have conducted a study, the largest to date, in which they claim that increased physical activity is associated with a lower risk of obstructive sleep apnea, a common sleep-related respiratory disorder.
The researchers reviewed medical, lifestyle, sociodemographic, and sleep health data collected from more than 155,000 adults who participated in the Ontario, Canada Health Study. Based on the participants’ physical activity with and without sleep apnea, the researchers determined that a modest increase in physical activity, such as walking, is associated with a 10 percent reduction in the risk of developing sleep apnea.
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“Our results highlight the importance of physical activity as a preventive measure against the development of sleep apnea,” explains lead author Lyle Palmer, professor of Genetic Epidemiology at the University of Adelaide, Australia. “A surprising finding was that not only vigorous physical activity but also just walking was associated with a lower risk of sleep apnea.”
The most prevalent sleep disorder in Spain
The authors found that adding 20 minutes of daily walking and increasing daily physical activity by eight minutes would be enough to achieve a lower risk of sleep apnea. The finding is independent of other known risk factors for sleep apnea such as sex, age, ethnicity, and obesity. The study has been published in the scientific journal ‘Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine’.
“Sleep apnea rates in children and adults continue to rise. Therefore, it is important to understand the role of modifiable protective factors.”
“Sleep apnea rates in children and adults continue to rise. Therefore, it is important to understand the role of modifiable protective factors for sleep apnea,” adds Palmer in statements collected by Neuroscience News. “Exercise is one of those protective factors and it has many other positive effects on overall health. Sleep health professionals should try to get their patients to exercise more.”
It is estimated that 5% of the adult population and 2% of the child population suffer from sleep apnea, many of them undiagnosed. Untreated sleep apnea is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and other serious illnesses. Apnea is, along with insomnia, the most prevalent sleep disorder suffered in Spain and that affects a high percentage of the population that in 70 percent is neither diagnosed nor treated. Symptoms include loud snoring, episodes where you stop breathing during sleep, gasps when breathing during sleep, dry mouth, headache the next morning, excessive sleepiness during the day, difficulty paying attention while you are awake and irritable