Physical Exercise Helps Us Cope With Working In Shifts and Jet Lag, Balancing Our Circadian Clock

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The so-called circadian clock is humans 24-hour cycle that balances physiological processes such as sleeping and metabolic mechanisms. Our circadian clock gets often disrupted when we’re working in shifts or due to jet lag. But, according to a new study issued in the Journal of Physiology, physical exercise might help us cope with circadian clock disruptions by regulating it.

“Exercise has been known to cause changes to our body clock. We were able to clearly show in this study when exercise delays the body clock and when it advances it,” explained Dr. Shawn Youngstedt from the College of Nursing and Health Innovation at Arizona State University, and the study’s leading author.

According to the new research, working out at 7 AM or between 1 PM and 4 PM brings the circadian clock to an earlier time. On the other hand, doing physical exercise between 7 PM and 10 PM makes the body’s internal clock move to a later time. Also, training during any different time intervals besides those mentioned before has little effect on the circadian clock.

Physical Exercise Helps Us Cope With Working In Shifts and Jet Lag, Balancing Our Circadian Clock

In their study, the researchers analyzed the circadian clocks of more than 100 participants for about six days. Once every 90 minutes, the subjects had to give urine samples for the scientists to calculate the “time of the evening rise in melatonin and the peak of melatonin several hours later.”

During the research, the participants ran or walked on treadmills for one hour per day. The scientists told their subjects to perform physical exercise at different times of the day, but each participant, for its part, had to work out at the same periods of the day throughout the study.

“This is the first study to compare physical exercise effects on the body clock, and could open up the possibility of using exercise to help counter the negative effects of jet lag and shift work. Further research will look at combining exercise with bright lights and melatonin to see what impact this has on body clocks, as well as examining the effect of changes in exercise duration and intensity on the circadian clock,” said Dr. Shawn Youngstedt.