Ever hear the term circadian rhythm? Great! Neither have I – until recently. And I’ll tell you why it is important. Our heart, livers and our brains are controlled by an internal body clock which dictates our physiological function from the time that we sleep until we awake. This body clock can easily become disrupted when exposed to artificial light in the evening when our body expects darkness and can get progressively worse as we age.
Consequences of circadian rhythm disruption off have been studied on mice by Christopher Colwell, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles’s Brain Research Institute. You can view the study in detail in the Journal of Psychology. Colwell expressed in an article in the New York Times that there are serious potential health consequences to problems with circadian rhythm.
Disruption of the body’s natural clock has been linked to an increased risk for diabetes, obesity, cancer, memory loss, mood disorders and depression.
Colwell and his team concluded in their study that exercise may be the answer to “fix” a broken clock. The researchers tested their hypothesis on a controlled group of mice with normal circadian rhythms, having one group run on a wheel in the earlier portion of their walking time and the others in the later part of the day. They then tested mice unable to produce an internal clock protein, and after weeks of running, their circadian rhythms were studier. The study concluded that animals that ran later produced more clock proteins more efficiently compared to the animals that ran earlier in their day.
“What we know, right now,” said Colwell to the New York Times, “is that exercise is a good idea” if you wish to sleep well and avoid the physical ailments associated with an aging or clumsy circadian rhythm. And it is possible, although not yet proven, that afternoon sessions may produce more robust results.”
Would you consider switching your morning workouts to the afternoon to comply with your internal body clock?