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According to sleep experts, exercise can help you sleep better–as long as you exercise during the day. But what happens if evening is the only time you have available to exercise? Should you skip it to avoid problems sleeping? Not so fast. Exactly how and when you exercise at night can make all the difference to how well you sleep. In fact, you may discover that exercising before bed isn’t just harmless; it’s the perfect segue to slumber. Here’s what you need to know:

Time It Right

While you may not want to hit the gym full force right before hitting the hay, studies have shown that exercising a few hours before bed won’t adversely affect sleep and may help you relax. Plan your workout for the early part of the evening to give your body and heart rate time to wind down before turning in. Also, wait at least a half hour after your evening meal to exercise to avoid digestive trouble that could keep you up at night.

Move Slowly

Exercise comes in many forms and intensities, but any type of exercise has health and sleep benefits, including slow-paced activities. When exercising at night, consider choosing a low-intensity activity that helps release stress and tension built up during the day. Yoga, Pilates, a refreshing stroll outside, or a leisurely bike ride will all give you the health perks of exercise along with relaxation to help you prepare for sleep.

Consider Your Stomach

One problem with exercising at night is it can induce hunger right before bed. Resist the urge to eat a whole meal, since reclining on a full stomach can interfere with sleep. On the other hand, don’t climb into bed starving. Instead, munch on a sleep-inducing snack, like hummus and whole grain crackers, yogurt, or a handful of nuts. Too much water can keep you up, too, so be mindful of overhydrating when exercising at night.

Include Breathing

Proper breathing while you exercise is key to a healthy workout and helps put you in a restful, relaxing state after you’re done. Learn how to incorporate breathing techniques into your evening workout session. You might also practice deep breathing or meditation right before bed; both are mental fitness techniques that can help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, improve brain health, and contribute to overall well-being.

Cool Down–and Warm Up

After cooling down from exercising at night, wait to throw on your pajamas. Treat yourself to a warm-up first–in the bath, that is. A soak in the tub or a hot shower will help lull you into dreamland. Warm water raises your body temperature, which puts you in a state of calm, but it’s the subsequent cooling down that cues your body it’s time for sleep. The best time to take a bath or shower for sleep is an hour or so before bedtime.

If you prefer to exercise at night or it’s the only time that fits your schedule, don’t fret over whether it’s a good or bad idea. Any exercise is better than none, plus evening exercise can be done in a way that promotes sleep. Be mindful about late workouts, and enjoy an invigorating and restful night.

by Susie Yakowicz

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7 Stationary Bike Tips to Enhance Your Ride

Cycling on a stationary bike is an excellent cardio workout that targets your quads, calves and core, all while increasing your heart rate and rate of breathing. According to LiveStrong, riding a stationary bike for just 30 minutes will burn up to 300 calories. However, there are a few things you should know before getting on the stationary bike.

#1) Stretch

Spend five to 10 minutes stretching your body before using a stationary bike. Stretching improves blood flow and muscle flexibility while reducing the risk of injury in the process.

When stretching, lift one of your knees and gently hold it against your chest for five seconds, after which you can bring it down and repeat with the other knee. It’s also a good idea to stretch your shoulders by lifting your arms above your head and rotating your shoulders like you are shrugging.

#2) Stay Hydrated

Drink plenty of water before, during and after using a stationary bike. Why is this important? Well, assuming you cycle at a moderate pace, you’ll lose a substantial amount of body moisture through perspiration. And if you don’t consume enough water, you’ll become dehydrated, resulting in muscle cramps and fatigue. This is why most seasoned athletes and gym rats bring a water bottle to use while cycling on a stationary bike.

#3) Adjust the Handlebars

One of the first things you’ll want to do after getting on a stationary bike is adjust the handlebars. Nearly all gym-grade bikes have adjustable handlebars. Lowering them will make you feel more aerodynamic, but this doesn’t offer any real benefit since you are indoors. Raising the handlebars, on the other hand, allows you cycle upright, which many people find to be more comfortable. Adjust the handlebars until you find a height that works best for your needs.

#4) Adjust the Seat

In addition to the handlebars, you should also adjust the seat. Ideally, the seat should be about the same height as your hip when standing. This will allow you to pedal while creating just a slight bend of 5 to 15 degrees in your knees when fully extended. If the seat is too low, your knees will have a greater bend, causing increased stress and restricting your ability to pedal.

#5) Watch Your Knees

Stationary bikes have a low risk of injury when compared to other exercise machines and equipment. However, it’s still a form of impact exercise, meaning it places stress on the joints and supporting structures. One area of the body, in particular, that’s susceptible to injury when using a stationary bike is the knees. If you experience swelling, redness or pain in your knees, stop using the stationary bike and wait for the symptoms to subside.

#6) Pedal With the Balls of Your Feet

You should pedal a stationary bike by pressing down with the balls of your feet. Some people have a tendency to pedal with their toes, which reduces their performance and increases the risk of injury. Be conscious of your posture when using a stationary bike and pedal with the balls of your feet, not your toes.

#7) Familiarize Yourself with the Digital Display

Finally, familiarize yourself with the stationary bike’s digital display. Most models allow riders to change the resistance setting on the display. Some also support incline settings to make it more challenging. Start with the low settings and gradually increase the resistance settings until you find the right difficulty level for your needs.

Riding a stationary bike is a fun way to burn calories and tone your body. To reap the most benefit from this workout, though, you should follow the seven tips listed here.

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