Exercise can change the human body clock, with the direction and amount of this impact depending on the time of day or night in which people exercise. The findings of the study are published in The Journal of Physiology.
The circadian "body"' clock is the 24-hour cycle that regulates many physiological processes including sleeping and eating. Many factors affect this internal body clock including light and time cues. Exercise has been known to cause shifts in the circadian clock; however very little is known about this effect.
This study found that exercising at 7 am or between 1 and 4 pm advanced the body clock to an earlier time, and exercising between 7 and10 pm delayed the body clock to a later time. Exercising between 1 and 4 am and at 10 am, however, had little effect on the body clock, and the phase-shifting effects of exercise did not differ based on age nor gender.
Given that the subjects tested were more physically active than average, the results might not translate to the average person. 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 body clock.
Shawn Youngstedt, the first author on the paper, said:
"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. This is the first study to compare exercise's 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."