Article image

Daylight saving time disrupts diet and exercise

Daylight saving time, the annual practice of setting clocks forward by one hour, has long been debated for its potential impacts on our daily lives.

While it promises extra evening daylight, new research suggests that the shift might be detrimental to our health habits, particularly when it comes to diet and exercise.

Unhealthy shifts: Snacking and gym attendance

According to a study conducted by marketing analytics experts from North Carolina State University’s Poole College of Management, the switch to daylight saving time correlates with an increase in the consumption of processed snacks and a decrease in gym visits.

This research utilized detailed, real-time data from a packaged food company and a fitness center chain, both based in the United States.

The food company’s study spanned six years and tracked the snack consumption habits of a nationally representative group using mobile devices, providing a unique insight into real-time eating patterns.

The fitness study, on the other hand, analyzed gym attendance data from before and after the onset in a single year.

The findings revealed that immediately following the transition, there was a notable increase in the intake of processed snacks, especially later in the day and more so on overcast days.

In addition, gym attendance dropped significantly post-time change, with the effect being more pronounced among those who do not regularly visit the gym.

Consumer behavior and daylight saving time

“The data we gathered is remarkable for its scope and the specificity with which it tracks individual consumption,” explained Ram Janakiraman, the corresponding author of the study. “This isn’t just about what people buy; it’s about what they actually consume, and when.”

This study not only sheds light on how our behaviors change with the clock but also emphasizes the broader implications of such shifts.

“Anecdotally, we often hear about the impact of daylight saving time on personal routines, but now we have empirical data that shows the real effects,” added Rishika Rishika, a co-author of the study.

Policy implications and consumer advice

The results of these studies offer important insights for both policymakers and the general public.

For one, they suggest that the transition into daylight saving time might require more supportive measures to help individuals maintain their health habits.

“Daylight saving time represents a period where companies could strategically plan to support customers in adjusting to the time change,” Janakiraman noted.

Moreover, Rishika advises consumers to be particularly mindful of their health habits during this transition.

“The shift can disrupt even the best of routines, so it’s crucial to be conscious of maintaining balanced habits during this time,” she stated.

Daylight saving time and health concerns

While daylight saving time may offer more daylight during the evening, it also poses challenges to maintaining healthy lifestyle habits.

This research highlights the need for awareness and potentially even policy changes to help mitigate the negative impacts of this yearly time change.

As we continue to debate the merits and drawbacks of daylight saving time, these findings provide valuable insights into its less visible costs.

Health impacts of daylight saving time 

Daylight Saving Time (DST) can have several impacts on human health, both positive and negative.

Sleep disruption

The most immediate effect of daylight saving time is the disruption to people’s sleep patterns. Losing an hour of sleep in the spring can lead to short-term sleep deprivation. This can increase fatigue, affect mood, and even impair cognitive function.

Heart health

Studies have shown a slight increase in heart attacks following the spring transition to daylight saving time. The stress of losing an hour of sleep and the disturbance in the body’s circadian rhythms might temporarily elevate the risk.

Mental health

The change in time can also affect mental health. The disruption in the circadian rhythm can lead to or exacerbate symptoms of depression for some people, particularly during the fall transition when daylight hours decrease.

Accidents and injuries

There is evidence to suggest an increase in accidents both on the road and in the workplace immediately following the shift to daylight saving time. This is attributed to decreased alertness stemming from sleep loss.

Longer daylight exposure

On the positive side, the additional hour of daylight in the evenings can encourage more physical activity and social interaction, which are beneficial for mental and physical health.

The overall impact of daylight saving time on health varies among individuals, largely depending on their personal health, lifestyle, and how their schedules are affected by the time change.

The study is published in the journal Journal of Marketing.


Like what you read? Subscribe to our newsletter for engaging articles, exclusive content, and the latest updates. 

Check us out on EarthSnap, a free app brought to you by Eric Ralls and


News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day