Signs of spring are all around us. In fact, my early blooming cherry trees and star magnolias have come and gone. Now there are actual green leaflets popping out and the air smells of moist soil when it rains.
Spring also brings daylight savings time—the time change everyone loves to hate, it seems. “Springing forward” and my recent travels to California (Joshua Tree National Park area) and the United Kingdom (London, primarily, see pic!) also got me thinking about circadian rhythms, i.e., our “body clock.” We know that light affects us, but does exercise? Does it matter at what time of day we exercise?
As it turns out, this is hard to research, but a recent study of about 100 participants seemed to indicate that, yes, you can alter your sleep/wake cycle somewhat through exercise. Exercising in the morning (around 7AM) and in the early afternoon (between 1 and 4 PM) can “advance” your body clock a bit, meaning you’ll wake up earlier the next day and feel energetic earlier in the day. Exercising in the later evening “delays” your body clock and results in your feeling energetic later the next day. Obviously, there isn’t a “right” time to feel energetic. It’s what works for you and your life. But, if you do have trouble going to sleep at night and need to be alert early in the day, try to get some exercise either early in the morning or early in the afternoon. It’s a small effect but it’s cumulative, so give it some time. Interestingly, the evening exercise-induced “delay” is a more pronounced effect, so avoid that if you’re trying to get to sleep and wake up early.
Of course, the right time to exercise is also whatever time that you can and will exercise. Any time can be a good time if you’re getting it done! I find spring can actually be a distraction for me when it comes to exercise, and just about all my other life-duties. It’s the time of year when all I really want to do is dig in the dirt. I rationalize that hauling and spreading mulch is good exercise, which is true. I also know this time is short-lived, so I allow myself some indulgence. I hope you enjoy it too!