Evening types are less physically active

Middle-aged evening-type men and women are less physically active than their peers. Evening-type men also spend more time sitting than morning types, a new study shows. According to the researchers, individual circadian rhythms should be taken into account to a greater extent in physical education and guidance.

People can be divided into morning, day and evening types based on their internal circadian rhythm. As the designations suggest, this means that peak performance and alertness can occur in the morning, evening or somewhere in between.

The study indicated that the difference between evening and morning types was roughly equivalent to a light walk of more than 30 minutes for men and about 20 minutes for women on a day-to-day basis. The average daily sedentary time for evening-type men was more than 30 minutes longer than for morning-type men.

The study is part of M.Sc. (H.Sc.) Laura Nauha’s doctoral dissertation which is being completed at the University of Oulu and ODL Sports Clinic. The aim of the study was to examine the links between chronotype (i.e. internal circadian rhythm), physical activity and sedentary behaviour at midlife.

The study utilised the Northern Finland birth cohort of 1966. A total of 2,239 men and 2,917 women at 46 years of age took part in the follow-up study. The physical activity and sedentary time of the participants were measured with a wrist-worn activity tracker for a period of two weeks. The chronotype was determined based on a questionnaire.

Earlier studies have indicated that evening-type people demonstrate more frequent mental and physical symptoms and illnesses. There have also been some earlier findings suggesting that evening types are less physically active and spend more time sitting down. However, the published study is the first extensive population survey that utilised an activity tracker to monitor the subjects, and where the results were analysed separately for men and women.

The study was conducted in a collaboration between the University of Oulu and ODL Sports Clinic. The study was funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Juho Vainio Foundation.

Research publication: Nauha, L., Jurvelin, H., Ala‐Mursula, L., Niemelä, M., Jämsä, T., Kangas, M. and Korpelainen, R. (2020), Chronotypes and Objectively Measured Physical Activity and Sedentary Time at Midlife. Scand J Med Sci Sports. doi:10.1111/sms.13753

Last updated: 1.12.2021