Can Exercise Help Jet Lag? Here's Why You Should Work Out Instead Of Sleeping It Off
Traveling is a life-changing experience, but by far the worst thing about it is dealing with jet lag. When all you want to do upon arriving at your destination is get to that incredible art museum, or enjoy a nice day of swimming, you feel all weak and weary from being hours ahead or hours behind the time zone you've traveled to. Well, friends, it seems that exercise can help with jet lag, so don't forget to pack your sneakers the next time you get on a plane and jet across the world.
In case you're not sure why exactly jet lag happens to the body in the first place (it seems like a cruel and unusual punishment for simply wanting to see the world, no?), Nike running coach Dave Coligado tells Elite Daily it has a lot to do with how much oxygen you get (or rather, don't get) while you're on your flight. That's what affects your body big time: “When traveling for an extended amount of time, oxygen saturation levels are reduced," Coligado says. "Cabin pressure during a flight is actually lower than sea level. This means that the body's ability to absorb oxygen is reduced.”
Plain and simple, he explains, that lack of oxygen causes you to feel lethargic, restless, and downright out of it after your flight. To acclimate to your time zone more easily, Coligado recommends exercising for about 30 to 45 minutes when you get to your hotel or Airbnb.
If you're kind of skeptical about all of this, though, I get it. I mean, when you're feeling sleepy and discombobulated, working out is probably the last thing you want to do, right? Well, it's worth noting that scientific research backs up the positive effects of exercise on a nasty case of jet lag.
In fact, scientists first came to this conclusion in a pretty hilarious and darling way, with the help of our furry friend the hamster.
In a study done in 1987, researchers at the University of Toronto performed an experiment in which they simulated jet lag in hamsters, and found that exercise helped those little guys adjust to new environments at a much more rapid rate than the hamsters that didn't exercise. I know, it's a total LOL, but this hamster experiment did suggest that the same thing was true for us humans, that exercise would help with adjusting to new time zones. But how the heck did the researchers simulate jet lag in hamsters in order to figure this out?
Well, researchers put 20 male hamsters in a room with controlled lighting, in which the hamsters were exposed to 14 hours of light, followed by 10 hours of darkness. After the hamsters got used to that cycle, they engaged in their self-started habits of running on their wheels inside their cages. Then, researchers changed the light-dark cycle by moving it forward by eight hours.
While half the hamsters were immediately placed on running wheels, the other half were left undisturbed. Researchers then observed that the hamsters that were placed on running wheels resumed their regular, self-guided running habits after only 1.6 days, whereas the animals that were not placed on the running wheel took more than five days to adjust to and resume their regular routines.
As a result, researchers then recommended that humans include jogging in their travels as a way to fend off that awful jet-lag feeling.
And as far as Cory Sarrett, a consultant for the personal training center All Inclusive Health, is concerned, this is totally true: "Jet lag is a downer both arriving on a trip or right after returning," he tells Elite Daily. "But fortunately, exercise can help."
While he admits working out won't necessarily be an immediate fix for jet lag, Sarrett does recommend going for a run outside when you get to your travel destination, setting up a yoga mat, or asking your accommodations where the best outdoor space for a workout might be. It's all about that exposure to natural light, my friend.
So the next time you take a long-ass flight to somewhere incredible, check into your hotel and fight the urge to go right to sleep, Sarrett says. Instead, he tells Elite Daily, do your best to get a moderate, 30- to 45-minute workout in, and go to sleep at your normal time — that is, your "normal" time according to your travel destination's time zone.