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Effects of timing of moderate exercise in the evening on sleep and subsequent dietary intake in lean, young, healthy adults: randomized crossover study



This work studied the acute effects in healthy adults of evening exercise timing on their quality of sleep and dietary intake over the following 12 h.


Sixteen men and women, (age: 22.3 ± 1.4 years; BMI: 20.8 ± 1.4 kg/m2, intermediate chronotype) took part in three randomized crossover sessions spread over three consecutive weeks: control session (CTL), 1 h exercise session at 6:30 pm (E6:30) and 1 h exercise session at 8:30 pm (E8:30), in which exercise finished 4 h and 2 h before habitual bedtime, respectively. Exercise was an outdoor run at 60% HRmaxth. Energy expenditure and sleep were ambulatories monitored by accelerometry under free-living condition. Ad-libitum dinner and breakfast were used to measure subsequent energy intake and proportion of that energy derived from each macronutrient.


Evening exercise did not disrupt sleep. Improvement in sleep quality compared to the control condition was observed only when exercise was performed 4 h before habitual bedtime (WASO: p < 0.01; SE: p < 0.02). Interestingly, our results give insight into differences in sleep parameters response to evening exercise between habitually poor and good sleepers mainly when it comes to sleep efficiency and wake after sleep onset (all p < 0.01). There was no difference in calorie intake from ad-libitum dinner and breakfast. However, an association between improvement in sleep efficiency from acute exercise and reduction of energy intake the following morning was found.


Early evening exercise could offer a useful alternative for achieving better sleep in healthy young adults especially when it comes to poor sleepers.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3



Breakfast day 1


Breakfast day 2


Control session


Energy intake


Epworth sleepiness scale


Exercise session at 6:30 pm


Exercise session at 8:30 pm


Heart rate


International physical activity questionnaire – short form


Horne–Östberg morningness–eveningness questionnaire


Metabolic equivalents of task


Number of awakenings > 3 min after sleep onset


Pittsburgh sleep quality index


Recommended dietary allowance


Sleep efficiency


Sleep latency

TEE-24 h:

Total energy expenditure over 24 h


Total time asleep


Total time in bed


Wake after sleep onset


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We thank participants who kindly took part in this study.


No external funding was received for this work. This research project received no outside funding.

Author information




PD designed the study, CL and OS carried out the study under PD's supervision. OS ensured the acquisition, statistical analysis, and interpretation of data with support from PD and DD. OS drafted the first manuscript. DD revised the first version critically. All authors have approved the main manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Pascale Duché.

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Communicated by Lori Ann Vallis.



See Table 5.

Table 5 Ad-libitum buffet meals

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Saidi, O., Davenne, D., Lehorgne, C. et al. Effects of timing of moderate exercise in the evening on sleep and subsequent dietary intake in lean, young, healthy adults: randomized crossover study. Eur J Appl Physiol 120, 1551–1562 (2020).

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  • Accelerometry
  • Sleep efficiency
  • Energy balance
  • Ad-libitum
  • College student