How do athletes cope with time zone differences?

With Japan so far away for some, how do time differences affect athletic performance...
27 July 2021





Tokyo has very big time difference from where many of the Olympic competitors are going to live normally, how do athletes make sure they don't get jet lag? 


Exercise expert Dan Gordon spoke to Chris Smith...

Dan - It is. And it's one of those issues that you face when you've had any major sporting tournament. And one of the things that we understand about somebody's chronobiology is that in essence, for every time zone that you cross, it takes one day to reacclimatise to that new time zone. But most Olympic teams will actually have gone out early, I mean, Team GB are actually out already in Japan and they're in what are called 'holding camps'. And so they go into the holding camps primarily to aclimatise to the environmental temperatures, but also to actually overcome things like the jet lag. So you would hope that unless you've got athletes who are flying in very, very late that the jet lag shouldn't be such an issue. What does become an issue, partly linked, is the natural circadian rhythm of the individual. Because we understand that naturally, we perform better athletically later in the evening. So we actually tend to perform very well between about 7 - 00 and 11 - 00 PM in the evening. And a lot of criticisms would have been raised because, well, surely that's when television wants us to watch those kinds of events. But we saw the actual reverse of that - when the Olympics were in Beijing, you may remember back to Beijing, there was that extraordinary American swimmer Michael Phelps. And Phelps was going for 8 golds in the games, and the American broadcaster NBC, who owns the rights to the Olympics, wanted to make sure that everybody in America could watch Phelps. So for the first time in Olympic history, they reversed the timings. They put the finals in the mornings and had the semifinals in the evenings. And it was really interesting to note that there were no world records broken in any finals, which took place in the mornings, and world records were broken in the semifinals.

Chris - That's good to know, so next time we record one of these programs, you guys, we'll get you all back at 11 o'clock at night, because we'll get an even better performance! I think we're doing quite well today, though. It's going pretty well. Isn't it?

Linda - Well, we might've won the quiz if it was 11pm!


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