Is There a Best Time of Day to Exercise? By Chris Freytag
Whether you lift weights, run, or hit the elliptical machine, what time of the day do you like to work out? And is there a specific reason you choose to exercise at that time? Maybe it’s because you’re a morning person. Maybe you’ve found a fitness class you love that just happens to be in the evening. Or maybe you squeeze exercise into your daily schedule whenever you can.
Let’s say though, that you could go with your true preference. What would it be? I posted about this topic on my Facebook Page, and got more than 100 responses. According to my informal Facebook poll, most people exercise in the … early morning! And I do, too. I exercise at 5:30 a.m. on three days of the week and between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. on the other days and weekends. Is it obvious that I’m a morning person? So if most people on my Facebook Page say they exercise in the morning, are they onto something? Is morning exercise best? Well, let’s take a look.
Why exercise in the mornings?
• Exercising in the morning energizes you for the rest of the day. Exercising early in the morning jump starts your metabolism keeping it elevated for hours. As a result, many report being more alert for the day and more productive. I just feel better about starting my day when I know I’ve already done something good for my body and mind.
• Morning might still be the best option even if you have several time slots to choose from throughout the day. I hear from some people who are retired or those who have a few hours when the kids are in school, but they still choose to workout in the early morning. Why? Well, there’s something to be said for getting it done. It’s that “early bird gets the worm” thing. When you tell yourself, “I’ll exercise later today,” you create opportunity for distraction and detours. “Later” might easily turn into “never.” And for those of us who travel, I know that client dinners and late nights working often derail a well-intended workout.
• Based on the reasons above, morning exercise tends to be more consistent in the long run. If it’s the first thing, or one of the first things, you do in your day, there’s less chance of your workout getting postponed or derailed.
Why exercise in the afternoons/evenings:
• Let’s be clear that a calorie burned at 6 a.m. is the same as one burned at 6 p.m. However, your performance might be better or worse depending on how your energy and moods shift throughout the day. If you’re really, really not a morning person, you might feel stronger in your afternoon or evening workouts compared to the morning.
• Recent research published in the Journal of Physiology found that exercising in the afternoon may be most beneficial for helping the body regulate its internal clock, or circadian rhythm. A well-regulated circadian rhythm contributes to more restful sleep and other health benefits. One caveat: The subjects in this study were mice. More research needs to be done on timing of exercise with people.
• Another consideration is the type of exercise available to you at different times of the day. For example, a solo treadmill workout in the morning versus a social fitness class after work. It all comes down to what fitness format motivates you most.
Bottom line: The best time to exercise is the time you’re most likely to do it! Finally, don’t forget that you can accumulate exercise in 10- or 20-minute chunks. That gives you the opportunity to experience morning and afternoon/evening exercise all in one day. My trick in the warmer months, I workout in the early morning and then try to fit in a walk in the afternoon to take a break from work, clear my head and give the dog some exercise too.
Chris Freytag is a fitness expert, public speaker, contributing editor to Prevention magazine and an author of several books, including her latest, a healthy cookbook titled, CHOOSE THIS! She appears regularly on QVC, and her latest workout DVD is called the 10lb Slimdown Xtreme, including 13 comprehensive circuit training workouts. Chris Freytag has been training, teaching, and educating in the health and fitness industry for more than 22 years. She is passionate about helping people take better care of themselves and their families.
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