Exercise or sleep: which is more important for your health?

Andrey Kamenov

Andrey Kamenov, Ph.D. Probability and Statistics

A lot of people exercise first thing in the morning. With many of them leading quite busy lives, this often means getting less sleep. And while nearly everyone understands the benefits of regular exercise for their health, the sleep aspect is also quite important.

But is it actually more important? We are not talking about people who don’t get enough sleep even without trying to fit gym sessions into their schedule, but maybe you should ditch that morning workout if it puts you under the coveted seven hours of sleep?

The introduction of our Health Index in a previous post allows us to calculate different trends related to public health in the U.S. Age is also a major factor here (while also linked to the percentage of people who exercise regularly). So, we are going to make a chart showing how our Health Index changes with age for people in different groups.

As seen in the chart, the effect of exercise is indeed much more impactful. For the youngest respondents, exercising regularly improved their health rating by 10 percent (compared to a 7 percent improvement from getting enough sleep). By the age of 40, the difference becomes more pronounced: an 18 percent improvement from exercise and a 12 percent improvement from getting enough sleep.

Additionally, regular exercise has a greater positive effect on almost all chronic conditions. The only two exceptions are asthma (getting enough sleep is somewhat more important than exercising) and depressive disorder (effects are similar).

The moral? Set your alarm early and go make yourself healthier.

Exercise and sleep by state (compared to national average)

There’s one technical note worth mentioning here. The numbers on the chart above have been controlled for the respondents’ age. To be more precise, they all represent an average 40-year-old person.



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About Andrey Kamenov

Andrey Kamenov

Andrey Kamenov, Ph.D. Probability and Statistics

Andrey Kamenov is a data scientist working for Advameg Inc. His background includes teaching statistics, stochastic processes and financial mathematics in Moscow State University and working for a hedge fund. His academic interests range from statistical data analysis to optimal stopping theory. Andrey also enjoys his hobbies of photography, reading and powerlifting.

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