The circadian rhythm of core temperature: Origin and some implications for exercise performance

Jim Waterhouse, Barry Drust, Dietmar Weinert, Benjamin Edwards, Warren Gregson, Greg Atkinson, Shaoyuan Kao, Seika Aizawa, Thomas Reilly

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    129 Citations (Scopus)


    This review first examines reliable and convenient ways of measuring core temperature for studying the circadian rhythm, concluding that measurements of rectal and gut temperature fulfil these requirements, but that insulated axilla temperature does not. The origin of the circadian rhythm of core temperature is mainly due to circadian changes in the rate of loss of heat through the extremities, mediated by vasodilatation of the cutaneous vasculature. Difficulties arise when the rhythm of core temperature is used as a marker of the body clock, since it is also affected by the sleep-wake cycle. This masking effect can be overcome directly by constant routines and indirectly by "purification" methods, several of which are described. Evidence supports the value of purification methods to act as a substitute when constant routines cannot be performed. Since many of the mechanisms that rise to the circadian rhythm of core temperature are the same as those that occur during thermoregulation in exercise, there is an interaction between the two. This interaction is manifest in the initial response to spontaneous activity and to mild exercise, body temperature rising more quickly and thermoregulatory reflexes being recruited less quickly around the trough and rising phase of the resting temperature rhythm, in comparison with the peak and falling phase. There are also implications for athletes, who need to exercise maximally and with minimal risk of muscle injury or heat exhaustion in a variety of ambient temperatures and at different times of the day. Understanding the circadian rhythm of core temperature may reduce potential hazards due to the time of day when exercise is performed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)207-225
    Number of pages19
    JournalChronobiology International
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 22 Jul 2005


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