Υyou just got off your flight across the lake. You grab your bags and get off the plane with adrenaline and excitement, ready for a new adventure in a new city. You take your taxi to the hotel and think to yourself, Maybe I should go to sleep first. The next thing you know is that you wake up eight hours later in the middle of the night and the next few days are full of fatigue, stomach problems and just general haze.
Jet lag has entered the scene.
Leading experts in the field of travel and health define jet lag as “the de-synchronization between the internal human circadian system and time in the new destination”. As a result, many of our psychological, physiological, and behavioral patterns are at odds with local time.
“The body has general rhythms that form the basis of our physiology and dictate things like hormones, metabolism, etc.,” says Amy Bender, director of clinical sleep science at Cerebra and an assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Calgary. “The circadian rhythm is like the main clock that either controls or affects these rhythms of the body.
Traveling in time zones creates a change in these rhythms, especially when we lose or gain three or more hours.
“When the internal master clock is not aligned with the external clock of your destination, a mismatch of all your body rhythms is created,” explains Dr. Bender. “This is at the heart of jet lag.”
Tim DiFrancesco, DPT, owner of TD Athletes Edge in Boston, says that when he traveled with the Los Angeles Lakers as head of team strength and preparation, he often felt like a moving snowball. “With each time zone we crossed or changed, it was like waving the snowball up, down and around,” he says. “It was by far the most difficult part of the job for me. “Once or twice a season, I would wake up in a hotel room and have to grab a part of the hotel that was fixed on the nightstand to confirm which hotel and city I was in.”
Fortunately, there are some proven ways to deal with jet lag, such as adjusting yourself before your trip, slowly adjusting your bedtime over the course of a few days, avoiding drinking, and taking 20-minute naps.
But what about training – could it also help combat the effects of jet lag? Many studies and experts have looked at the question and the answer is yes. This is probably due to the known effects of exercise as a natural stimulant for boosting energy levels and an effective self-regulation technique.
To make the most of any sweating sessions on the road, it is helpful to use some targeted strategies.
Training schedule for the greatest benefits
In a study published in Journal of PhysiologyThe researchers looked at whether exercise had the effect of shifting the effects to circadian rhythms by taking nearly 100 people in three consecutive days of moderate treadmill exercise — and that’s the key to making this research unique — to one in eight times a day, or of the night.
They found that exercise generally changed circadian rhythms, but was further able to determine when it was most effective. Exercise at 7 p.m. and between 1 and 4 p.m. local time resulted in the greatest phase progress (meaning that sleep time and wake time are moved earlier in the day). Meanwhile, exercise between 7 and 10 p.m. resulted in longer phase delays (meaning that bedtime and wake-up time are moved later in the day). The first would be ideal when traveling from West to East (to face progress in time) and the second from East to West (to face subtraction in time).
The results of exercise during these hours were almost similar to those achieved with an hour of exposure to bright light, which is considered one of the most effective ways to regulate circadian rhythms due to the connection between light and sleep control systems.
Here we go: What about exercising in bright natural light? There is limited evidence to suggest that it may further help regulate sleep quality and hormonal responses, but more research is needed.
Does volume make a difference?
When you travel, you already face multiple stressors. Any exercise you do should not add more, says Andrew Barr, DPT, owner of Quantum Performance, who works with the NBA Brooklyn Nets and has become an expert in jet lag relief and how travel fatigue can affect injury risk and performance.
“You want to reduce the intensity of exercise to low or moderate, because you want to reduce the additional stressors,” he says. Consider: A brisk walk, a gentle yoga session, or perhaps a bike ride on the streets you visit. “If you stay in the new destination for a long time, then you can increase the intensity as you acclimatize to the changes.”
However, if you are only making a short trip, consider whether it is worth the effort to adjust. “Generally, if you stay for less than three days, I would not recommend trying to adjust at all, because you just have to adjust when you leave to do double the work!” says Dr. Bar.
But if you want your body to get used to the local time, try these strategies on your next trip. Hopefully instead of waking up in a dizzy dizziness in the middle of the night, you will have a serene, timed breakfast, ready for any adventure that awaits you.
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