Chronotype, Physical Activity, and Sport Performance: A Systematic Review

Abstract

Background

Many variables related to sport have been shown to have circadian rhythms. Chronotype is the expression of circadian rhythmicity in an individual, and three categories of chronotype are defined: morning types (M-types), evening types (E-types), and neither types (N-types). M-types show earlier peaks of several psychophysiological variables during the day than E-types. The effect of chronotype on athletic performance has not been extensively investigated.

Objective

The objective of the present review was to study the effect of chronotype on athletic performance and the psychophysiological responses to physical activity.

Methods

The present review adheres to the PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) reporting guidelines. We searched PubMed, Scopus, and Web of Science for scientific papers using the keywords “chronotype”, “circadian typology”, “morningness”, and “eveningness” in combination with each of the words “sport”, “performance”, and “athletic.” Relevant reference lists were inspected. We limited the search results to peer-reviewed papers published in English from 1985 to 2015.

Results

Ten papers met our inclusion criteria. Rating of perceived exertion and fatigue scores in relation to athletic performances are influenced by chronotype: M-types perceived less effort when performing a submaximal physical task in the morning than did N- and E-types. In addition, M-types generally showed better athletic performances, as measured by race times, in the morning than did N- and E-types. Other results concerning chronotype effect on physiological responses to physical activity were not always consistent: heterogeneous samples and different kinds of physical activity could partially explain these discrepancies.

Conclusions

Sports trainers and coaches should take into account the influence of both the time of day and chronotype effect when scheduling training sessions into specific time periods.

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Correspondence to Jacopo Antonino Vitale.

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No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of the present review.

Conflict of interest

Jacopo Antonino Vitale and Andi Weydahl have no conflicts of interest relevant to the content of this review.

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Vitale, J.A., Weydahl, A. Chronotype, Physical Activity, and Sport Performance: A Systematic Review. Sports Med 47, 1859–1868 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-017-0741-z

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Keywords

  • Maximum Voluntary Contraction
  • Athletic Performance
  • Heart Rate Recovery
  • Sport Performance
  • Race Time