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  Home » Circadian Rhythms and Exercise - How They Impact Your Body By Shyam Amladi

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Circadian Rhythms and Exercise - How They Impact Your Body By Shyam Amladi

For most individuals, irrespective of their age or physical condition, a regular regimen of exercise has become more than desirable---it has become essential.

In addition to all the other benefits of an exercise regimen—improvement in your cardiac health, more oxygen through your body, muscle tone and weight control, a recent study suggests that exercise improves something called the Circadian rhythms coursing through your body.

Circadian rhythms are the approximate 24-hour biological cycles that function to prepare the cellular and bacterial structure of a human body (or for that matter other mammals) for daily environmental changes. In other words, behavioral, physiological and biochemical rhythms are termed circadian rhythms. Underlying circadian rhythms is a molecular clock mechanism found in most, if not all, cell types including skeletal muscle. In simpler terms, Circadian rhythms tell your body when to be at rest and when to begin moving.  The study of Circadian rhythms is called chronobiology.

A "master clock" in the brain coordinates all the body clocks so that they are in synch. The master clock that controls circadian rhythms consists of a group of nerve cells in the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN. The SCN contains about 20,000 nerve cells and is located in the hypothalamus, an area of the brain just above where the optic nerves from the eyes cross.

See the Circadian Clock above. Notice, for instance, how the body's "master clock' stops producing Melatonin Secretion (produced by your body through your Pineal Gland, located in your brain) in the morning, "telling" your body to wake up and start moving.

This is important to your general well being and crucial for people with health issues such as diabetes and vitamin deficiencies. Imagine if your body's clock ordered cells to stop producing Melatonin Secretion at 1 AM instead of at 7 AM! The resulting "Tsunami" caused by your tossing and turning couldn't be a happy event for your bedmate, would it? But seriously, that is the least of the problems an out-of-control Circadian Clock can cause.


Circadian rhythms govern several normal daily functions for humans and animals. E.g. our sleep patterns, fatigue, moods etc. Go to the following website to learn of the studies on mice relative to sleep patterns and how jet lag can impact Circadian rhythm functioning.


Common factors are: Jet lag, Night shift work, Pregnancy, Mental problems, Time zone changes and certain medications.


Simply put, lack of an exercise regimen can negatively impact your Circadian rhythms and thrown your body’s natural pattern out of whack. Few of us realize that physical activity both in people and most animals tends to follow a broad Circadian pattern.

In a 2009 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, there was an internal logic to the physical movements of study subjects who wore 24-hour activity monitors. If e.g. someone was still for some time, he or she would start moving unconsciously---the Circadian rhythm was “telling” the body that it needed some physical activity. There thus was a pattern of recall by the SCN. These “memory” cells reduce drastically with age, the study showed. Older folks showed less propensity to move about even after long periods of inactivity.

Where all of this is relevant is in emphasizing that a regular regimen of physical activity, whether it be running, walking, muscle toning or swimming, is essential to sustain the beneficial effects of the Circadian rhythms within our bodies. Dr. Frank A.J.L.Scheer, an Assistant Professor of the Medical Chronobiology Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, an authority on SCN and related brain-cell functions, says that “by prompting the release of a wide variety of biochemical in the body and brain, exercise almost certainly affects the body’s internal clock mechanisms and its Circadian rhythm, specially as it relates to physical activity".

Well, chock one more in the “plus” column for daily physical exercise. And of course, a simple, practical way to maintain an exercise routine is to......BRISKWALK !