June 20, 2022 – For most of us, the “best” time of day to exercise is a simple matter: when we can.
Perhaps this is before or after work. Or when the gym offers free daycare. Or when our favorite instructor teaches our favorite class.
That’s why we call it “routine”. And if the results are the same, it is difficult to imagine changing them.
But what if the results are not the same?
They may not be, according to a New study From a research team at Skidmore College. The results of the 12-week exercise program were different for morning versus evening workouts.
Women who exercised in the morning lost more fat, while women who exercised in the evening gained more upper body strength and power. As for men, performance improvements were similar regardless of when they exercised. But those who did so in the evening had a significant drop in blood pressure, among other benefits.
The study is part of a growing body of research showing different results for different times of the day among different populations. As it turns out, when In the end, exercise can have a huge impact. And we’re not just talking about strength and fat loss, but heart health, mood, and sleep quality as well.
The original goal of the Skidmore study was to test a unique fitness program with a group of healthy, fit, and highly active adults in early middle age.
The program includes four exercises per week, each with a different focus: strength, steady paced endurance, high intensity intervals, and flexibility (traditional stretching exercises combined with yoga and Pilates exercises).
But because the group was so large—27 women and 20 men completed the 3-month program—they had to split them up into morning and evening exercise groups.
Lead author Paul Arciero, Ph.D., says the researchers didn’t see the differences between morning and evening exercise until they looked at the results.
Arcero emphasizes that the participants in each group became leaner and stronger. But the women who exercised in the morning had greater reductions in body fat percentage and body fat percentage than the evening group. Meanwhile, the women in the evening group had significantly greater gains in upper body strength, power, and muscular endurance than their morning counterparts.
Among men, the evening group had significantly greater improvement in Blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and the percentage of fats burned For energy, along with a greater reduction in tiredness.
Strategic timing for strong results
Some of these results are consistent with previous research. for example, Study published in 2021 He showed that the ability to exert great effort and express strength and power peaks in the late afternoon, around the same time that core body temperature is at its highest point.
On the other hand, you are likely to do better in the morning when the activity requires a lot of skill and coordination or depends on strategic decision-making.
The results apply to both men and women.
Regardless of performance, the timing of exercise may provide powerful health benefits for men with, or at high risk for, type 2 diabetes.
Study 2020 showed that men who exercised between 3 and 6 p.m. experienced a dramatic improvement in blood sugar management and insulin sensitivity, compared to a group that trained between 8 and 10 a.m.
They also lost more fat during the 12-week program, even though they were doing the exact same workouts.
Always train, sleep well
Exercising can affect your sleep quality in several ways, says McMaster University neuroscientist Jennifer Hayes. Move the body, heal the mind: beat anxiety, depression, dementia, improve focus, creativity and sleep.
First, she says, “Exercise helps you fall asleep faster and sleep deeper at night.” (The only exception is if you exercise so intensely or so close to bedtime that your heart rate is still high.)
Second, “Exercising at a consistent time each day helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythms.” It doesn’t matter if your workout is in the morning, evening, or anywhere in between. As long as it is predictable, it will help you fall asleep and wake up at the same times.
She says outdoor exercise is better. The sun is the most powerful regulator of the circadian clock and works in conjunction with physical activity.
Third, exercising at set times can help you cope with travel fatigue or adjust to an earlier or later shift in work.
“Exercising at 7 a.m. or between 1 and 4 p.m. helps ‘turn’ the biological clock back in time, making it easier to get up early,” Heisz says. If you need to train your body to get up late in the morning, try to exercise between 7 and 10 p.m.
All exercises are good, but the right timing can make them even better
“The best time to exercise is when you can fit in,” Arcero says. “You have to choose the time that best suits your lifestyle.”
But he notes that context matters.
“For someone who needs to achieve an improvement in cardiovascular risk,” his study shows an advantage to working out later in the day, especially for men.
If you focus more on building upper body strength and power, you are likely to get better results from training in the afternoon or evening.
And for fat loss, the Skidmore study shows better results for women who did morning workouts.
And if you are still not sure? Try sleeping on it – preferably after a workout.
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