The effect of exercise training on obstructive sleep apnea and sleep quality: a randomized controlled trial

Sleep. 2011 Dec 1;34(12):1631-40. doi: 10.5665/sleep.1422.


Study objectives: To evaluate the efficacy of a 12-week exercise training program for reducing obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) severity and improving sleep quality, and to explore possible mechanisms by which exercise may reduce OSA severity.

Design: Randomized controlled trial.

Setting: Clinical exercise physiology center, sleep laboratory.

Participants: Forty-three sedentary and overweight/obese adults aged 18-55 years with at least moderate-severity untreated OSA (screening apnea-hypopnea index [AHI] ≥ 15).

Interventions: Participants randomized to exercise training (n = 27) met 4 times/week for 12 weeks and performed 150 min/week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, followed by resistance training twice/week. Participants randomized to a stretching control (n = 16) met twice weekly for 12 weeks to perform low-intensity exercises designed to increase whole-body flexibility.

Measurements and results: OSA severity was assessed with one night of laboratory polysomnography (PSG) before and following the 12-week intervention. Measures of sleep quality included PSG, actigraphy (7-10 days), and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index. Compared with stretching, exercise resulted in a significant AHI reduction (exercise: 32.2 ± 5.6 to 24.6 ± 4.4, stretching: 24.4 ± 5.6 to 28.9 ± 6.4; P < 0.01) as well as significant changes in oxygen desaturation index (ODI; P = 0.03) and stage N3 sleep (P = 0.03). Reductions in AHI and ODI were achieved without a significant decrease in body weight. Improvements in actigraphic sleep and subjective sleep quality were also noted following exercise compared with stretching.

Conclusions: Exercise training had moderate treatment efficacy for the reduction of AHI in sedentary overweight/obese adults, which suggests that exercise may be beneficial for the management of OSA beyond simply facilitating weight loss.

Trial registration: identification number NCT00956423.

Keywords: Actigraphy; exercise training; obstructive sleep apnea; polysomnography; randomized controlled trial; sleep quality.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Exercise Therapy* / methods
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Patient Compliance
  • Polysomnography
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / complications
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / therapy*
  • Sleep* / physiology
  • Young Adult

Associated data