Sleeping well, long enough and having regular bedtimes, in addition to meeting the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Life’s Simple 7 (LS7) guidelines, may help reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular diseases. Improved sleep patterns may also help people achieve and maintain a healthier body weight, according to preliminary research presented at the AHA’s Epidemiology and Prevention | Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions 2020.

Mounting scientific evidence shows sleep problems are associated with a higher risk of developing obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.

Researchers found those who had the healthiest sleep duration (7-8 hours) during a sleep study, in addition to meeting LS7’s guidelines, were 61 percent less likely to have a heart disease diagnosis, compared to people who had the poorest scores.

Notably, heart health scores that considered sleep behaviors such as sleeping poorly, sleeping less than seven hours or nine or more hours per night, and/or having irregular sleep duration and bedtimes, as well as sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and insomnia, showed the strongest associations with increased heart disease risk.

Those who had healthy sleep behaviors and no sleep disorders in addition to meeting the LS7 had up to 59 percent lower likelihood of having a heart attack, stroke, heart failure or other cardiovascular event at the time of the sleep study and up to 44 percent lower risk of developing heart disease 4 ½ years later.

Women who went to bed at the same time every day lost about two pounds of body fat over a six-week period, compared to women who had greater variations in their day-to-day bedtimes, even though both groups of women slept the same amount of time, according to new research.

“This improvement in body composition occurred without any recommendations for weight loss or tips to change their diet, eating or exercise – all they did was sleep on a more consistent schedule,” said lead study author Marie-Pierre St-Onge, Ph.D., M.Sc., FAHA, associate professor of nutritional medicine and director of the Sleep Center of Excellence at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City.

“If your bedtimes are more stable, that means your circadian rhythms are more stable. There’s less potential for circadian misalignment, which has been shown to be associated with increased risk of obesity and cardiometabolic risk factors,” said St-Onge. “The key message is that people should try to go to bed at consistent times every night and wake up at the same time every morning.” Circadian rhythm refers to the 24-hour cycle of when we are awake, asleep, hungry, tired or energetic and is tied to daylight and the darkness of night.

Injured or in pain? Water running may be the workout you’ve been waiting for

By Amanda Loudin

All of her adult life, 49-year old Michele Chudik tried to find a type of exercise she liked enough to stick with it. She’d tried just about everything, she thought, when a stress fracture in her foot forced her into the pool to try water running. Six years later and Chudik is still at it.

Water running, for the uninitiated, originally came about as a way for injured runners to keep in shape while they can’t get on the road. Research, in fact, finds that it’s one of the best substitutes for the real thing. But as Chudik proves, water running isn’t just for runners — it’s a great way for anyone to stay in shape. With no impact, water running is suitable for almost anyone: those suffering injuries, seniors, and those with arthritis find it a good alternative to their normal routine, or like Chudik, a favorite workout.

What is water running, exactly?

Using a special flotation belt, you get into the deep end of the pool and “run,” mimicking the motion you’d use on land. While it’s effectiveness as an alternative to running is known, most runners will complain that the trade-off is lack of mental stimulation. Staring at a pool wall for 30 or 40 minutes or longer isn’t the most exciting way to go.

The good news is that water running has evolved over the years and there are now ways to make it more exciting. Waterproof headphones, for one, can help. Adding intervals and following a program with specific workouts is another way to shake it up. And if you’re lucky enough to be in the right location, there are even classes that provide coaching and the camaraderie of fellow classmates.

The New York Road Runners club, for instance, offers up a seven-week deep water running class directed by a certified trainer. Over the seven weeks, class participants go through varied, 45-minute sessions that include a warm up, cool down, and approximately 30 minutes of intervals, sprints and even simulated hill training.

Chicagoland residents can tap into a class called Fluid Running created by Jennifer Conroyd, a 53-year old runner from La Grange, Ill. Conroyd first turned to water running to help her reach the start line of the Chicago Marathon in 2010, when a calf injury prevented her from training on land. “I was six weeks out from the race and came across a nine-week plan for injured runners,” she says. “I reached out to the coaches who developed the plan and they helped me dial it in for the time I had left.”

Some of Conroyd’s sessions lasted up to three hours in order to mimic the long runs she otherwise would have put into her preparation. On race week, she did a two-mile test run on land and felt good enough to try the marathon. She finished out feeling unexpectedly good. “I couldn’t believe I wasn’t hitting a wall,” she says. “I also wondered why more athletes didn’t use water running.”

Her positive experience led Conroyd to become certified to coach water running and begin teaching one-on-one sessions. Today, she leads classes several times a week at her local gym.

Chudik is one of the regulars in Conroyd’s classes and goes two to three times every week. “It’s a great cardio workout and I never get bored,” she says. “We get a big mix of people in class in all age ranges and abilities. It’s a safe space for everyone.”

Jennifer Govostis, a 48-year old non-practicing physical therapist, also attends and even coaches the classes at the Chicago-area gym. “I started taking the classes three years ago due to injury,” she says. “I was totally skeptical and didn’t think I’d like it.”

Today, Govostis has used water running to train for three marathons and gets in the water twice a week for sessions.

Source: NBC News