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What is the Best Time of the Day to Exercise?

man checking his watch

When it comes to exercise, many people wonder if there is an ideal time of day to work out. A recent study sought to shed light on this question by analyzing 22 studies through a systematic review and 7 studies through a meta-analysis. Here are the key takeaways and details from the research:

Types of Participants and Exercises: The studies included various groups, such as physical education students, children, healthy elderly individuals, adults with type 2 diabetes, and physically inactive or active adults. The exercises assessed were endurance exercise, strength exercise, or a combination of both.

Timing of Exercise: The average time of day for the exercise sessions included in the review was 7:58 am, with a range from 7:30 to 9 am. Afternoon sessions varied more, with an average time of 5:19 pm, reflecting the diverse schedules of individuals.

Findings: Overall, the authors found no superiority of a specific exercise time for improving anthropometrics, cardiovascular health outcomes, cardiometabolic health outcomes, or performance-related outcomes like VO2max. However, some individual studies did highlight interesting results.

Individual Study Results: One study showed a significant decrease in resting systolic blood pressure during evening exercise, while another observed significant decreases in triglycerides and fasting glucose in the evening exercise group, suggesting potential superiority for cardiometabolic outcomes in the evening. However, these findings need further exploration with longer study durations and improved measurements.

Matching Training and Testing Time: Notably, matching the time of day for training and testing appeared to yield better performance outcomes. Testing strength or other physical abilities at the same time as the usual training session produced more favorable results.

Considerations for Application: To apply these findings to your own life, consider two important factors: your chronotype and your schedule. Chronotype refers to your preferred sleep pattern and waking hours. Understanding your chronotype can help determine when you are most alert and perform best. Additionally, your schedule may dictate the available time slots for exercise, taking into account work, family, and other commitments.

Avoid Sacrificing Sleep: While some individuals may prefer early morning workouts, it's crucial not to sacrifice sleep. Irregular sleep patterns can negatively impact hormonal and metabolic regulations, hindering exercise performance and increasing health risks. It's important to strike a balance that allows for adequate rest and exercise.

Find Your Preferred Time: Ultimately, finding a training time that works well for you is key. Factors such as personal preferences, enjoyment, and adherence play vital roles in developing a sustainable exercise routine. Trial and error may be necessary to identify the optimal training time based on your individual circumstances.

Don't Get Caught Up in the Details: Avoid fixating on isolated factors like hormone levels, as exercise outcomes are influenced by multiple variables. While there may be slight advantages to exercising in the afternoon, it's essential to consider your own unique circumstances, including your personal barriers and preferences.

In conclusion, rather than searching for a universally "best" exercise time, focus on finding the time that fits your lifestyle and allows you to consistently engage in physical activity. Embrace a routine that aligns with your chronotype, schedule, and enjoyment to promote adherence and maximize your overall fitness journey.


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