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Some people swear by a 6 a.m jog to get their hearts racing and get them psyched up for the day. Others wouldn’t dream of breaking a sweat before noon and go for a walk around the neighborhood after dinner. The question, however, is whether one is better for your health than the other?

Time of day can influence how you feel when exercising and the consistency of your exercise.

Thus far science has found no reliable evidence to suggest that calories are burned more efficiently at certain times of day. But the time of day can influence how you feel when exercising and the consistency of your exercise. What’s more important, experts say, is to choose a time of day you can stick with so that exercise becomes a habit.

Consistency is Key

I’ve observed that all too often a trainer or healthcare professional will promote early morning exercise for various reasons such as increased calories burned throughout the day and improved energy and alertness during the day. There is also the argument that you have already completed your exercise so that it won’t compete with other priorities in the evening. All good points, but there are downsides. We often forget to check in about how we truly feel about early morning exercise. The key, I believe, is to decide whether early morning exercise is something that you can be consistent with in the long term.

Your Body Clock

Your body’s circadian rhythm determines whether you’re a night owl or an early bird, and there’s not much you can do to alter that. Circadian rhythm is governed by the 24-hour pattern of the earth’s rotation. These rhythms influence body functions such as blood pressure, body temperature, hormone levels, and heart rate, all of which play a role in your body’s readiness for exercise.

Using your body clock as a guide to when to go for a walk or hit the gym might seem like a good idea, but, of course, there are other important considerations. These include family and work schedules, or a friend’s availability to walk with you.

The American College of Sports Medicine has a nice paper on the chronobiological effects of exercise if you want a deeper look into circadian rhythm and exercise.

The Perks of Morning Exercise

If you have trouble with consistency, morning may be your best time to exercise, experts say.

“Research suggests in terms of performing a consistent exercise habit, individuals who exercise in the morning tend to do better,” says Cedric Bryant, PhD, Chief Science Officer with the American Council on Exercise.

“The thinking is that they get their exercise in before other time pressures interfere,” Bryant says. “I usually exercise at 6 a.m., because no matter how well-intentioned I am, if I don’t exercise in the morning, other things will squeeze it out.”

He recommends that if you exercise in the morning, when body temperature is lower, you should allow more time to warm up than you would later in the day.

The Perks of Evening Exercise

If you’re not much of a morning person – like me – and it takes a while to get moving, evening exercise may be your ticket.

Exercise in the evening allows your body to move and get warm throughout the day. You’ll have to guard against running out of energy or having your schedule interfere with your workout, but exercise in the evening is not as high-pressure and allows for more flexibility in your choices.

Take caution in monitoring your sleep patterns to make sure evening exercise doesn’t interfere with effective sleep. If you find that your sleep suffers, you might consider making an adjustment.

What time of day does exercise make you feel the best?

Contributed by

Phil Hardesty
Exercise Physiologist

Have a healthy, happy and fit week!!

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