People with sleep apnea are often encouraged to exercise to control their weight, increase muscle tone, and improve sleep. Unfortunately, it turns out that sleep apnea can make it harder for individuals to exercise. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego published findings that sleep apnea results in about a 14% reduction in a person’s ability to take in and metabolize oxygen.
Measuring Oxygen Usage
In order to use energy and run our muscles, the body needs oxygen. We typically consume a certain amount of oxygen, but as we start to exercise, that amount increases. At a certain point, our oxygen intake can’t increase, and we lose the ability to increase our effort because our body just can’t burn any more energy. The point at which that occurs is the VO2 max, or the maximum volume of oxygen that your body can take in and use.
In this study, the researchers looked at the VO2 max for people with sleep apnea. They used a standard test for measuring VO2 max–a stationary bike test with steadily increasing resistance. They tested 15 subjects with moderate or severe sleep apnea and 19 with mild or no sleep apnea, finding that those with sleep apnea had a VO2 max about 14% lower than that of those without sleep apnea.
Through statistical analysis, they found that the number of times a person stops breathing per hour could account for about 16% of the variability among test subjects.
Sleep Apnea’s “Catch-22”
VO2 max is an important parameter for anyone trying to train for an athletic event, but it’s also important to people starting a new exercise program. Lower VO2 max means that a person will get tired more easily, making it hard for them to maintain an exercise effort, which means they are less likely to get good results from exercise. With less good news, they are more likely to give up on exercise.
Like weight loss, when it comes to exercise sleep apnea represents a Catch-22: you have to exercise to get rid of sleep apnea, but to be able to exercise, you have to get rid of sleep apnea.
Fortunately, there are other ways to treat sleep apnea. We offer a comfortable, convenient sleep apnea treatment that can give you a jump-start so you’ll be better able to do the exercise you want to improve your health and your sleep apnea.