Is It Time We Stop Discouraging Evening Physical Activity? New Real-World Evidence From 150,000 Nights

Michal Kahn, Topi Korhonen, Leena Leinonen, Kaisu Martinmaki, Liisa Kuula, Anu Katriina Pesonen, Michael Gradisar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Professional and colloquial sleep hygiene guidelines advise against evening physical activity, despite meta-analyses of laboratory studies concluding that evening exercise does not impair sleep. This study is the first to investigate the association between objectively measured evening physical activity and sleep within a real-world big-data sample. A total of 153,154 nights from 12,638 individuals aged 18–60 years (M = 40.1 SD = 10.1; 44.5% female) were analyzed. Nighttime sleep and minutes of physical activity were assessed using Polar wearable devices for 14 consecutive days. Thirty minutes or more of moderate-to-near maximal physical activity during the 3 h before sleep onset were recorded in 12.4% of evenings, and were more frequent on weekdays than weekends (13.3 vs. 10.2% respectively, p < 0.001). Linear mixed modeling revealed that sleep efficiency was not significantly associated with evening physical activity, and that sleep duration was 3.4 min longer on average on nights following evenings in which participants engaged in 30 min or more of moderate-intense physical activity. Effects were found for sleep timing metrics, as evening physical activity was linked with earlier sleep onset and offset times (−13.7 and −9.3 min, respectively). Overall, these effects were greater– but still very small– on weekdays compared to weekends. The present study provides further evidence for the lack of meaningful links between sleep duration or quality and physical activity in the hours preceding sleep. Taken together with recent meta-analytic findings, these findings suggest that changes in public health recommendations are warranted regarding evening physical activity and its relation to sleep.

Original languageEnglish
Article number772376
Number of pages8
JournalFrontiers in Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 4 Nov 2021


  • big-data
  • evening exercise
  • physical activity
  • sleep duration
  • sleep hygiene
  • sleep quality


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