The study examined a group of 124 young, healthy adults who regularly got enough sleep and physical activity. The researchers found that participants who classified themselves as "night owls" felt like they didn’t have enough time to exercise and were unable to stick with a regular training schedule — regardless of when they went to bed or woke up. Although exercise attitudes varied between the owls and the larks, there wasn't a significant difference observed in their amounts of available leisure time.
One reason late-night lovers might have more difficulty exercising is because by the end of the day (which is when they feel motivated) they are either too busy or too fatigued. "They may also fear that training in the evening will interfere with sleep," explains principal researcher Kelly Glazer Baron, PhD, director of the behavior sleep medicine program at Northwestern University. "But, there are now several studies demonstrating evening exercise is not [a detriment] to sleep for most people. Increasing physical activity at any time of day can benefit your sleep and overall well-being.”
The research, presented at the recent SLEEP 2014 conference, also showed that the time you wake up influences how sedentary you are over the weekend. “Roughly, those waking up around 7 a.m. reported two hours sitting on weekends, and those waking at 10 a.m. reported three and a half hours,” says Dr. Baron. These findings piggyback on another recent study that found night owls don't sleep as much and are less likely to be in long-term relationships.
Of course, there are nighthawks are able to hit the hay earlier, just as there are "morning people" who are forced to stay up late due to job or family duties. The main takeaway, explains Dr. Baron, is that “the chronotype (the trait of being an owl or lark), is more important for sedentary time and exercise barriers than the actual time [people wake] up, or how much they slept.”
Regardless of your sleep patterns, it's up to you to make the most of your day and keep moving — because sitting could be worse for you than smoking.