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Equinox says “sleep coaches” can improve your fitness

The fitness brand is unveiling a new program after a clinical research study demonstrated how sleep impacts performance.

Equinox says “sleep coaches” can improve your fitness
[Photo: Katja Stückrath/Unsplash]

It’s already known that a number of elements factor into weight loss, including food, exercise, Netflix addiction, etc. Now a new study delves into another piece of the puzzle: sleep. Or more specifically, how the habits that keep you from optimal shuteye can affect your fitness levels.

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Equinox, in conjunction with researchers at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, revealed findings linking behavioral “sleep coaching” to exercise performance. That’s right, they may have finally answered the question of whether or not that late-night cheesecake will slow you down in the morning.

The clinical research study–the first of its kind–found that sleep coaching, which involves improving people’s sleep quality by getting them to change their lifestyle habits, does indeed impact one’s athletic performance. The goal was to prove how a behavioral-level step-by-step program could push incremental improvement in the quality and duration of sleep and, as a result of that, affect fitness outcomes.

Over 30 participants took part in the 12-week study, submitting detailed sleep logs each week. They recorded everything from alcohol consumption to middle-of-the-night bathrooms breaks, which were evaluated by sleep researchers.

The research team also conducted lengthy interviews, asking questions like: What time do you typically go to bed? What time do you get up in the morning? How many hours do you spend in bed? How many hours are you actually asleep out of that time? What’s your sleep quality? And do you get sleepy at a particular time in the evening?

“There are a lot of things that interfere with our ability to sleep well because we’re often pulled in many different directions,” explains David Harris, vice president, health and human performance at Equinox. “The first thing we wanted to solve was really understand: How are people living on a daily basis as it relates to their desired fitness outcome.”

Researchers measured each participant’s metabolic rate, then analyzed their habits. They paired the two together to see if they were working together in a conducive manner. They then recommended reasonable tweaks, such as advocating less tech use before bed or nixing late-night meals. The study showed that coaching helped those who participated work out longer and at higher intensities, with their overall body fat percentage significantly decreased.

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Better living through snooze control

It’s no surprise that a good night’s rest impacts a day at the gym, but the study clarifies just how much of an impact it has. For example, metabolic threshold improved 29.8% in the sleep-coaching group, compared to 16.2% in the control group. (In other words, they got significantly more calorie-burning bang for their workout buck.) Meanwhile, those who were sleep-coached saw body fat percentage decrease by 17.2%, versus 7.1% in the control group.

Equinox has adopted a more holistic approach to weight loss in recent years. Three elements surround its approach to the category: movement, nutrition, and regeneration. (Sleep coaching, though still nascent, falls into the latter.)

Sleep coaching isn’t anything terribly new–it’s often used by professional athletes or employed by exhausted parents of newborn babies. It’s like having a personal trainer, but one solely focused on habits and circadian rhythm.

Armed with these new findings, Equinox is now making that luxury a bit more attainable to the average sleep-deprived member. Starting this month, the fitness brand will incorporate sleep-coaching goals on the Equinox app and website, with members tracking their optimal snooze patterns.

In addition, Tier X at Equinox, an upscale in-person fitness coaching program, will integrate the findings to help members reach their sleep potential. There’s also a standalone sleep-coaching service rolling out to 22 locations across the Equinox portfolio, in every market with the exception of Toronto and D.C. The six-session package starts at $495.

“We may ask them if could they eat earlier in the evening as opposed to later,” explains Harris, “and they may commit to these tiny little changes, which, over time, add up to significant change.”

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