Fall Back and Move Less

Who’s going to complain about Daylight Saving Time when we fall back and get an extra hour of sleep? We won’t. But that doesn’t stop researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine from suggesting that the extra hour of sleep might be a missed opportunity for better public health.

How’s that? Well, they looked at physical activity data from more than 23,000 children in nine countries — England, Australia, USA, Norway, Denmark, Estonia, Switzerland, Brazil, and Portugal — and found that extra evening daylight seems to lead to a small increase in the physical activity of children. The study has the strength of a large sample size with objective physical activity data.

But the leap from a little extra physical activity to a population-wide health benefit is a little too big. We’re not about to give up that precious hour of extra sleep for such a big leap of faith. It gets especially dicey when people start suggesting that this is a good strategy for reducing childhood obesity. To their credit, the investigators made no obesity claims. They left it to health reporters, who obligingly wrote headlines like “Falling Forward Instead of Back Could Lower Child Obesity Rate.” There’s no evidence to support such a claim.

So leave our extra hour of sleep alone.

Click here to read the study, here to read more from Science 2.0, and here to read more from KCBS.

Fall, photograph © Ted Kyle

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