Traveling to the Philippines from the USA or Europe will definitely give you jet jag. Because of the long flight and time zone difference, it is important to have a strategy for getting over jet lag quickly so that you can make the most of your vacation.
Before talking about exercising when experiencing jet lag, let’s first define what it is. Basically, it is an interruption to our biological clock – what controls us waking up and going to sleep, among other biological functions - known as the circadian rhythm. It most often occurs when rapidly traveling across as little as two time zones. If left to recover on your own without any type of intervention, it can take up to nine days to get your body back in synch. Generally speaking, it takes about a day per hour of time zone change for recovery.
Our title question goes much deeper than that. For example, the time of day we exercise affects it as well as exercise consistency before and while traveling.
UCLA did a study awhile back on mice and found their circadian cycles could be adjusted based on the time of day they were exercised. Exercising early in the morning shifted their heart rate and body temperature to an earlier time; exercising late in the day shifted it to a later time.
If this same results holds true in humans, then we would benefit from exercising early in the morning if we are flying east and later in the afternoon or early evening if heading west. Actually follow-on studies using humans this theory to be true. So if you know the direction you are heading, adjust your exercise schedule well ahead of your travel plans, so your biological clock is pre-set ahead of your travel.
Amherst College did a study on humans that showed regular exercise – regardless of when done – helped recover from jet lag quicker. In this case, it appeared the rhythmic schedule of exercise put the biological clock in sync to a daily routine. As applied to diminishing jet lag, participating in a regular exercise program at the same time every day prior to flying and maintaining that schedule around the same time each day once back on the ground in your new location will help keep the body in tune with the time of day. In other words, it associates the time of day with exercising, thus making it easier to acclimate to your new time zone.
Another study out of Brazil, spanning over 20 years, found that regular exercise turns back our biological clocks keeping us younger than we really are. Research has also found that younger people recover faster from jet lag than older folks.
Study conclusions recommend keeping to an exercise schedule prior to traveling and once back on the ground. The act of exercising not only makes you younger than you really are but keeps your body in synch with the time of day – both making it easier to recover from jet lag.