Are you a morning person, a night person, or somewhere in between? If you’ve never given it too much thought, now is the time to discover your chronotype.
New research shows that our natural daily rhythm could influence how much physical activity we get, no matter what our lifestyle looks like beyond our sleep schedule. As many of us are still working from home, understanding the ebbs and flows of our internal clock can help us develop routines to maximize productivity during our waking hours.
First things first—what is a chronotype?
Every day, the body’s internal clock responds to changes in ambient light (and other external cues) to determine the rhythmic release of hormones. These hormones dictate when we feel most awake, hungry, and when we’re ready for sleep. Our chronotype is the time of day when we feel most alert as the result of our natural circadian rhythm. Generally, we all fall into one of three categories: morning, day, or night.
What is the relationship between chronotypes and physical activity?
In a new study, researchers in Finland monitored the physical activity of approximately 6,000 men and women, all 46-years-old. The participants wore an activity tracker for two weeks and then researchers compared that data with their corresponding chronotypes.
Overwhelmingly, the results showed that morning people were the most physically active, with day people not far behind. Both of these groups spent significantly more time moving each day than evening people, and the results were consistent among both men and women. Perhaps what’s most revealing, though, is that these extra active minutes were not the result of more time spent exercising—just cumulative movement throughout the day. In other words, early risers are simply more active in general, regardless of how much they exercise.
There are a number of reasons why evening people move less, including practical ones like stores and parks being closed at night. This study does not imply that an evening chronotype will cause inactivity, only that there is a relationship between these two traits. If there is one big takeaway here for evening folks, it’s that you should be mindful of how much activity you get each day. It’s easier to slip into a sedentary routine when the majority of your waking hours take place at night.
Learn your chronotype, live your chronotype:
If you’re unsure of your own chronotype, this short questionnaire will tell you everything you need to know. It’s totally free and takes five minutes to fill out. In addition to finding out whether you’re a morning, day, or night person, the results also provide information to help you optimize your routine.
For example, the quiz will calculate your melatonin onset estimate, which is the time of day when your body begins to produce the sleep hormone. It will also estimate your “natural bedtime.” You can use each of these estimates as end points to plan your day around. Plan to have your work fully completed before your melatonin onset, in order to relax and unwind until your natural bedtime. That’s how you lean into your circadian rhythm like a boss.