Some chronobiological considerations related to physical exercise

Clin Ter. May-Jun 2006;157(3):249-64.


Variables associated with physical activity show circadian rhythms in resting subjects; these rhythms have both exogenous (due to the individual's lifestyle and environment) and endogenous (due to the "body clock") components. During exercise, many of the rhythms persist, even though some show decreasing amplitude with increasing severity of exercise. Whilst the value of physical fitness is not disputed (for elite athletes, for individuals who just want to be physically fit, or for patients undertaking physical rehabilitation regimens), there are certain times of the day when special care is needed. These times are soon after waking--when there is the possibility of an increased risk of cardiovascular morbidity and damage to the spine--and late in the day--when there is an increased risk of respiratory difficulties. Since physical exercise is inextricably linked with thermoregulation, there are special considerations to bear in mind when exercise takes place in cold or hot environments. Further, due to the effects of the body clock, exercise and activity during night work and after time-zone transitions presents problems peculiar to these circumstances. In addition, the menstrual cycle affects physical performance, and these circatrigintan rhythms interact with the circadian ones. Bearing in mind these factors, advice that is based upon knowledge of circadian and circatrigintan rhythms can be given to all those contemplating physical activity. Chronobiologically, there is advantage in undertaking physical activity programmes towards the middle of the waking day and not at times when a sleep or nap has just been taken.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronobiology Phenomena*
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Motor Activity
  • Physical Fitness
  • Rehabilitation