Scientific research is increasingly highlighting the benefits of exercise to help keep the body clock regulated. This information will be of particular benefit to jet lagged frequent fliers all over the world. One of the main problems of jet lag is that the time zone change causes the traveller to lose his or her body’s natural entraining habit. The research points to the fact that exercise helps the body keep time and assists it in making adjustments using internal as well as external cues. Up to this point it was thought (by the scientific community) that external cues were the only guides to resetting the body clock.
As a seasoned frequent flier it is highly probable that you have experienced the trials of a body clock that won’t adjust to the time zone you find yourself in. You can’t get to sleep when you want to or you fall asleep at inappropriate times. While some fliers ignore the time zone of their destination on short trips, they still have to face the fact that their body is already making efforts to adjust to it. This means that by the time they get back home it is probable that their body clock is mid adjustment and now has to do an about-turn. This is stressful to your body especially if you fly often. Some fliers try to manage body clock shifts with stimulants like caffeine, alcohol and drugs. While these may offer a short-term benefit they tend to lead down the path of ever diminishing returns and ill-health if abused. Frequent fliers looking for a healthy way to reset their body clock should take a serious look at these findings. We all know regular exercise also gives other benefits complementary to good health.
The first piece of research from the University of Glasgow concludes that exercise strengthens the body clock and helps it stay synchronised as the organism ages. The study performed on mice showed how restricting and encouraging exercise at different times of the day had different effects on the body clock of mice. A key observation of the findings was that younger mice were able to adapt quicker than older mice. “Synchronisation is key to a healthy immune function, metabolism and mood. Evidence suggests that animals that are more strongly synchronised live healthier and longer lives” (Biello)
The second piece is a researched review by A. Deslandes at the Arquivos de Neuro Psiquiatria, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil covering research of the past twenty years. It backed up the idea that physical exercise may turn the biological clock back and by doing so has added anti ageing benefits. One method by which this can happen is when hormones act as immune modulators. Regular exercise that triggers the production of hormones can affect our immune system functionality.
The take-away from this research and review is that jet lagged fliers would do well to take up exercise as part of a preventative strategy to manipulate the body clock so it performs accordingly when they travel. Furthermore, keeping the body clock synchronised is healthy and anti ageing.
Biello et al, (2013) Voluntary exercise can strengthen the circadian system in aged mice. Age. ISSN 0161-9152 (doi;10.1007/s11357-012-9502-y)
Deslandes A. The biological clock keeps ticking, but exercise may turn it back. Arq Neuropsiquiatr. 2013 Feb;71(2):113-8.