Posted by: David Stewart | October 4, 2010

Exercise: Causing Sickness and Insomnia

Yes, exercise has many health benefits. But it can have some pitfalls too.

I had to chuckle this morning listening to the radio coming in to work. My local public radio station is supported by a health maintenance organization called Kaiser Permanente, and the local host usually gives a little tag line from them.

To paraphrase, "Our support comes in part from Kaiser Permanente, who remind you that regular exercise can lead to a healthy immune system and has the added benefit of helping you sleep better."

What made me chuckle is that it can also lead to the exact opposite.

  • I ran a 26.2 mile marathon last Saturday, and since then I have had a really hard time going to sleep. It’s like my metabolism has been super revved up and doesn’t want to slow down to sleep. I have had this happen to me a few times, but not recently. It’s like I have a surplus of energy reserves and my body is ready to fly. So much for exercise helping you sleep better.
  • After running a marathon, it’s common to be more susceptible to illness like a cold. This is because your body’s immune response is focused on repairing the damage from the race, opening you up to infection. So much for exercise keeping you healthier!

OK, all kidding aside, I actually do agree with the sentiment of the Kaiser tag line. When I am running regularly, I rarely get the common cold any more, and I usually sleep very well.

But sometimes it works against you.



  1. It’s not the marathon itself that has health benefits, it’s the months and years working for it.

  2. Of course you are right that it’s the training that gives the health benefit. My point was the irony of hearing the tag line when I did.

  3. I exercise alot and workout very hard. I have fierce insomnia and I seem to get sick frequently. And when I am coming down with something the insomnia gets worse. And since I am always ‘coming down with something’ I always have insomnia.

    I do everything I can do be healthy and get my sleeping back to the way it used to be. Nothing works. So now I’m wondering if it is my crazy workouts …

  4. Hi Heather – I certainly understand your situation. There was a recent article in Runner’s World at,7120,s6-241-285–13267-1-1X2X3X4X5X6-6,00.html about Tera Moody, an elite runner who suffers greatly from insomnia. You might want to check it out and see if it’s helpful in solving your sleeping problems.

  5. Thanks for the link I’m going to take a look!

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