A photo of a gentleman working out on a stationary bike at a gym.One lifestyle modification that is often recommended to improve sleep apnea is increased exercise. However, a new study suggests that exercise may be harder for people with sleep apnea. A study recently published by researchers at the University of California San Diego found that people with sleep apnea had an impaired ability to take in and metabolize oxygen, and that sleep apnea alone accounted for about 16% of that impairment.

Measuring Oxygen Usage

Researchers looked at the parameter VO2 max. VO2 max is short for the maximum volume of oxygen that a person can utilize during athletic effort. When you exert yourself, your body will demand more oxygen than at a resting state, but at a certain point, it reaches its limit and can’t take in any more oxygen. Some people say VO2 max is the limiting parameter for athletes, especially runners, and all agree that it’s an important measure of a person’s ability to exercise. Low VO2 max has also been linked to risk of heart attack and stroke.

In this study, researchers measured VO2 max using a stationary bike test for 15 men and women with moderate or severe sleep apnea and 19 with mild or no sleep apnea. They then compared the results with VO2 max tables.

On average, the people with sleep apnea had 14% lower VO2 max than would be expected from a person of the same age, gender, and body mass index.

Sleep Apnea’s “Catch-22”

This data highlights the Catch-22 that sleep apnea sufferers find themselves facing. In order to improve sleep apnea, they are expected to increase exercise levels. However, sleep apnea reduces oxygen capacity, so they are unlikely to get the results they want from exercise. It’s a similar situation with weight loss, too.

What we can do, though, is begin sleep apnea treatment right away. We know that treatment can lead to significant reductions in sleep apnea, independent of your ability to make lifestyle changes. Once treatment takes effect, you will find it easier to make lifestyle modifications.

If you would like to learn how sleep apnea treatment can make a difference in your life, please call (402) 493-4175 for an appointment with an Omaha sleep dentist at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center today.