Adding daylight hour good for health: U.K. researcher

Shifting U.K. clocks forward by one hour throughout the entire year in order to allow people to enjoy more daylight hours could help encourage more physical activity outdoors, a British expert says.

Britain considering shifting clocks forward to get an extra hour of daylight

Shifting U.K. clocks forward by one hour throughout the entire year in order to allow people to enjoy more daylight hours could help encourage more physical activity outdoors, a British expert says.

Mayer Hillman, a senior fellow emeritus at the University of Westminster's Policy Studies Institute in London, argued in the Oct. 27 issue of the British Medical Journal that adjusting the country's way of keeping time would help improve public health.

Currently, clocks in the U.K. follow Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) from October to March and British Summer Time (GMT+1) from March to October.

Hillman's organization and other groups have proposed switching the system to GMT+1 in the winter and GMT+2 in the summer.

That, Hillman says, would give most adults 300 extra hours of daylight a year and 200 more for children to participate in outdoor leisure activities. 

His findings are based on a study the Policy Studies Institute conducted looking at the effect of daylight and clock changes on residents of Scotland, the most northern region of the U.K.

Under the proposal, clocks would continue to move forward in spring and back in autumn, but an hour of daylight would be moved from the evening to the morning.

Shifting U.K. clocks in such a way is "an effective, practical, and remarkably easily managed way to better align our waking hours with the available daylight during the year," writes Hillman.

"It must be rare to find a means of vastly improving the health and well-being of nearly everyone in the population; here we have it."

Hillman said research shows that people feel happier, more energetic and have lower sickness rates in the longer and brighter days of summer whereas their mood tends to decline during the shorter and duller days of winter.

Increasing the number of daylight hours would encourage more outdoor activity given that surveys suggest a trend toward declining fitness and higher obesity rates.

Most people are aware of the benefits of more physical activity, such as a lowered risk of heart disease, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and some cancer. But few adults make it a routine part of their lives, and the school curriculum allocates insufficient time for it, Hillman said.

British MPs are set to debate the clock proposal in December.

The campaign to switch to the new system, dubbed Lighter Later, has strong support from road safety groups, tourism and leisure services, sporting bodies and groups representing children and teens, women, pensioners and people living in rural communities, Hillman said.

People in most jurisdictions in Canada and the U.S. set their clocks back one hour to standard time on the first Sunday in November, which this year falls on Nov. 7.