Time for Exercise? Exercise and Its Influence on the Skeletal Muscle Clock

J Biol Rhythms. 2022 Dec;37(6):579-592. doi: 10.1177/07487304221122662. Epub 2022 Sep 21.


Circadian rhythms drive our daily behaviors to coincide with the earth's rotation on an approximate 24-h cycle. The circadian clock mechanism present in nearly every cell is responsible for our circadian rhythms and is comprised of a transcriptional-translational feedback loop in mammals. The central clock resides in the hypothalamus responding to external light cues, whereas peripheral clocks receive signals from the central clock and are also sensitive to cues from feeding and activity. Of the peripheral clocks, the skeletal muscle clock is particularly sensitive to exercise which has shown to be an important time-cue with the ability to influence and adjust the muscle clock phase in response to exercise timing. Since the skeletal muscle clock is also involved in the expression of tissue-specific gene expression-including glucoregulatory genes-this might suggest a role for exercise timing as a therapeutic strategy in metabolic diseases, like type 2 diabetes. Notably, those with type 2 diabetes have accompanied disruptions in their skeletal muscle clock mechanism which may also be related to the increased risk of type 2 diabetes seen among shift workers. Therefore, the direct influence of exercise on the skeletal muscle clock might support the use of exercise timing to provide disease-mitigating effects. Here, we highlight the potential use of time-of-day exercise as a chronotherapeutic tool within circadian medicine to improve the metabolic profile of type 2 diabetes and support long-term glycemic control, potentially working through the skeletal muscle clock and circadian physiology.

Keywords: circadian rhythm; exercise; metabolism; muscle clock; skeletal muscle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Circadian Clocks* / genetics
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2*
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mammals
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism