Circadian Clocks, Redox Homeostasis, and Exercise: Time to Connect the Dots?

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Compelling research has documented how the circadian system is essential for the maintenance of several key biological processes including homeostasis, cardiovascular control, and glucose metabolism. Circadian clock disruptions, or losses of rhythmicity, have been implicated in the development of several diseases, premature ageing, and are regarded as health risks. Redox reactions involving reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (RONS) regulate several physiological functions such as cell signalling and the immune response. However, oxidative stress is associated with the pathological effects of RONS, resulting in a loss of cell signalling and damaging modifications to important molecules such as DNA. Direct connections have been established between circadian rhythms and oxidative stress on the basis that disruptions to circadian rhythms can affect redox biology, and vice versa, in a bi-directional relationship. For instance, the expression and activity of several key antioxidant enzymes (SOD, GPx, and CAT) appear to follow circadian patterns. Consequently, the ability to unravel these interactions has opened an exciting area of redox biology. Exercise exerts numerous benefits to health and, as a potent environmental cue, has the capacity to adjust disrupted circadian systems. In fact, the response to a given exercise stimulus may also exhibit circadian variation. At the same time, the relationship between exercise, RONS, and oxidative stress has also been scrutinised, whereby it is clear that exercise-induced RONS can elicit both helpful and potentially harmful health effects that are dependent on the type, intensity, and duration of exercise. To date, it appears that the emerging interface between circadian rhythmicity and oxidative stress/redox metabolism has not been explored in relation to exercise. This review aims to summarise the evidence supporting the conceptual link between the circadian clock, oxidative stress/redox homeostasis, and exercise stimuli. We believe carefully designed investigations of this nexus are required, which could be harnessed to tackle theories concerned with, for example, the existence of an optimal time to exercise to accrue physiological benefits.
Original languageEnglish
Article number256
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 28 Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research received no external funding. Acknowledgments: All figures contained within this manuscript were created with

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • circadian rhythms
  • reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (RONS)
  • exercise training
  • antioxidant


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