New research shows that running can lower the risk of sleep apnea - Women's Running

New research shows that running can lower the risk of sleep apnea

Author: Kate Sellers

Read Time:   |  September 15, 2021

The study found a strong link between being physically active and a lower risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a term many of us will have heard, but we might not really know what it is unless we’ve been diagnosed with it – and we probably should.

There are a few different types of sleep apnea, but the main issue is that sufferers’ breathing repeatedly stops and starts as they sleep. As anyone can imagine, this is far from ideal, and can lead to serious side effects, from heart problems to diabetes.

The National Sleep Foundation reports that sleep apnea likely affects as much as 20% of the population, with around 85% of sufferers not even knowing that they have it. Symptoms include waking with a dry mouth or a headache, daytime fatigue or irritability and even snoring (though not all snorers have sleep apnea).

So, what does all this have to do with running? Well, new research has found that being physically active during the day reduces our risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea.

Researchers studied the health data of more than 138,000 men and women in the US, none of whom had been diagnosed with sleep apnea at the study’s start. They found that those who had a higher daily activity level through the research timeframe (between 10 and 18 years, depending on the participant) were around 54% less likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea.


Even better, lead researcher Tianyi Huang, D.Sc., noted that running during the day not only contributes to this daily activity level, but also reduces how much fluid we retain at night, resulting in less pressure on the lungs when you’re breathing during sleep.

The study also suggested that our ‘just one more episode’ habit could be one to nip in the bud: sitting and watching TV for more than four hours a day was linked with a much higher risk of developing sleep apnea.

Written by

Kate Sellers

Kate Sellers

Kate is our Senior Digital Executive and a keen runner. She's also a qualified Personal Trainer and yoga teacher, so she knows her stuff about workouts, cross-training and stretching. She loves to combine running and exploring, so you'll often find her testing out the latest kit in exciting locations across the UK and beyond. Kate champions exercising for enjoyment. "Most of the year, you'll find me running for fun and wellbeing," she says. "That being said, I do still love the thrill of training for a race from time to time!"

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