Is it better to exercise in the morning or in the afternoon? It’s not really about the best time of day to train, it’s about what effects morning or evening exercise have on us. A study shows how the body produces different health-promoting signaling molecules in an organ-specific way after exercise, depending on the time of day. We talk about it in this article.
Exercising in the morning or in the afternoon has different effects
Exercise causes the body to release hundreds of different signals that improve our health in many different ways. The researchers behind this study have mapped these intrinsic signals and how they are released by different organs in mice after exercise at different times of the day. His ‘Atlas of Exercise Metabolism’ is an important step towards developing more effective exercise therapies that are synchronized with the biological clock.
It is well established that exercise improves health. In fact, research has shown that exercise benefits the body in different ways, depending on the time of day. However, scientists still don’t know why the timing of exercise produces these different effects. To gain a better understanding, an international team of scientists recently conducted the most comprehensive study to date on exercise performed at different times of the day.
The study involved healthy lab mice jogging on tiny treadmills. What the scientists did was map hundreds of disparities in the number and activities of molecules and genes throughout the rodents’ bodies; depending on whether they ran first thing in the morning or later at night.
The research shows how the body produces different health-promoting signaling molecules in an organ-specific way after exercise, depending on the time of day. These signals have a broad impact on health, influencing sleep, memory, exercise performance, and metabolic homeostasis.
The study was published in the journal Cell Metabolism in mid-January 2022.
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Exercise to regulate circadian rhythm
Almost all cells regulate their biological processes for 24 hours, also called the circadian rhythm. This means that the sensitivity of different tissues to the effects of exercise changes depending on the time of day. Previous research has confirmed that timing exercise according to our circadian rhythm can optimize the health-promoting effects of exercise.
The team of international scientists wanted a more detailed understanding of this effect, so they carried out a series of experiments on mice that exercised in the early morning or late afternoon. Samples of blood and different tissues, including brain, heart, muscle, liver, and fat, were collected and analyzed using mass spectrometry. This allowed scientists to detect hundreds of different metabolites and hormone signaling molecules in each tissue; as well as monitoring how they changed when exercising at different times of the day.
The result is an «Atlas of Exercise Metabolism», a comprehensive map of exercise-induced signaling molecules present in different tissues after exercise at different times of the day.
Time- and exercise-dependent metabolism in multiple tissues
«Since this is the first comprehensive study summarizing time- and exercise-dependent metabolism in multiple tissues, it is of great value in generating and refining systemic models for organ metabolism and crosstalk»; the researchers explain.
New insights include a deeper understanding of how tissues communicate with each other and how exercise can help «realign» faulty circadian rhythms in specific tissues: faulty circadian clocks have been linked to increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes 2 .
Ultimately, the study identified new exercise-induced signaling molecules in multiple tissues, which need further investigation to understand how they may individually or collectively influence health.
«Not only do we show how different tissues respond to exercise at different times of the day, but we also propose how these responses are wired to induce an orchestrated adaptation that controls systemic energy homeostasis»; researchers say.
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The study has several limitations. One is that the experiments were carried out on mice. While mice share many common genetic, physiological, and behavioral characteristics with humans, they also have important differences. For example, the mice are nocturnal and the type of exercise was also limited to treadmill running, which may produce different results compared to high-intensity exercise. Finally, the impact of gender, age and disease were not considered in the analysis.
«Despite the limitations, this is an important study that helps guide further research that may help us better understand how exercise, if timed correctly, can help improve health»; researchers say.
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Other articles of interest
- Sleeping too soon after intense exercise can increase the risk of heart disease
- Daily physical activity boosts brain function in middle-aged older adults, study finds
- Cholesterol: what types are there, how does it affect you and why should you control it?
- Here’s How Exercising Your Muscles Helps Fight Chronic Inflammation
- Causes of obesity and health risks
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