In today’s world, we are constantly in a state of being busy. Some people even use busyness as a badge of honor. However, always being “on” can actually affect our body’s natural processes — including our circadian rhythm — and therefore trickle down to everything from our sleep to our hormones. Because of this state of constant motion, people often try to hack their lives, finding how to do the most in the least amount of time and looking for the most optimal way to do things.
For some daily activities, including exercise, science is looking for the optimal time of day to get in a sweat — not as a way to get more for less, but to suit our body’s overall rhythm. Thanks to newly published literature, we now know researchers are one step closer to determining the best time of day to head out for a run.
ABOUT THE STUDY
A recent study published in the medical journal Cell Metabolism and performed by the Department of Biomolecular Sciences at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel explores the effect of the circadian clock on exercise, hoping to nail down the best time to get your daily dose of sweat. Researchers were breaking it down to a molecular level and how some specific metabolic pathways reacted to exercise at specific parts of the day.
There are two things to note about this study: First, it primarily focused on mice (though, humans were studied, as well) and, second, it’s strictly in a laboratory setting. So, while researchers are able to draw conclusions as to how this affects humans, they acknowledge our lifestyles vary greatly from the confines of their lab.
The study found that, in the laboratory setting, both mice and humans had better exercise capacity in the evening (determined by oxygen consumption and some key metabolic regulators). Of course this doesn’t mean you should swear off those early morning workouts. However, this does mark the beginning of research looking at the circadian clock and how it affects exercise, based not on performance data but instead, on cellular analysis.
HOW CIRCADIAN RHYTHM COMES INTO PLAY
As the study mentioned admits, the circadian clock controls many of our body’s internal responses (and in this specific case, they affect our physical performance). Circadian rhythm is how we are able to transition from day to night, helping our bodies regulate basic functions throughout our 24-hour clock.
“Our circadian rhythm is our natural rhythm that operates on a 24-hour cycle, resetting itself every morning when you first experience daylight,” specifies Darleen Santore, professionally known as Coach Dar, a CEO of Performance Meets Purpose Coaching and Consulting. “Your circadian clock affects everything, from mental focus, weight control, energy and sleep. [In fact,] if you look at many animals in the wild, they follow the same rhythm set by the 24-hour clock.”
Our circadian rhythm can be affected by many things, including exercise. In fact, one study notes proper exercise can shift the circadian clock, affecting when we sleep and wake up. This can even interrupt other internal metabolic functions. Studies have found it can even affect the heart and cardiovascular health.
Under world-renowned Ayurvedic physician Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar, Santore personally participates in retreats to test circadian rhythm and the effect it has on mental clarity, energy and physical performance. Science backs the idea our circadian rhythm not only regulates us but is best when then regulated by us.
“We all have different power hours and everyone is unique, so take all of this and apply what you see fit,” admits Santore. “I will offer to you that, with all the research out there on the circadian rhythms and how it affects us positively when we follow it or negatively when we don’t, it’s worth trying out.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
Because our circadian rhythm helps regulate the basic functions of our organs (this study reminds us it also directly affects our hormones), getting a full night’s sleep, along with developing a sleep and exercise schedule, can be beneficial. This can help your natural rhythm get the most benefit from physical activity. More research is needed to determine the best time to exercise, but the researchers in Israel are helping us get closer to an answer. Until then, experimenting with — and maintaining — a schedule can help you find what personally helps you perform at your highest level and achieve proper sleep.
“[Before my circadian training,] I generally worked out in the morning and found it to help me with my day, increased my mood, gave me more energy; so just shifting that a bit earlier was even better for me as I felt I could get more done in the day,” adds Santore. “I used to work out after work years ago and would come home hungry and then end up not sleeping as well … [this caused my] body to slow itself down to enter into a rest state.”