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What’s the BEST TIME OF DAY to exercise?

Well, that is largely in part up to YOU!  

Most likely, you have a time of day that works best for you.  But, there are pros and cons to both morning and evening routines.  

A MORNING WORKOUT:

Pros: 

  • Gets our metabolisms off to a flying start helping us burn more calories throughout the day
  • Promotes more fat burning because our depleted glycogen stores force our bodies to turn to fat
  • Produces endorphins that stimulates us and helps us get off to a positive start to the day
  • Acts like a cup of coffee and wake us up
  • Helps us exercise more consistently by minimizing distractions
  • Can create time for exercise by forcing us to get up a bit earlier
  • Improves energy levels for the rest of the day ahead
  • Improves our mental sharpness for hours after
  • Allows us to exercise unaffected by summer heat
  • Minimizes our exposure to air pollution exercising outside
  • Makes it easier to get on machines in the gym without waiting and when time limits don’t apply

Cons:

  • Forces us to workout with less than optimal energy levels
  • Promotes injuries by forcing us to workout with cold, stiff muscles
  • If exercising before eating, muscle (as well as fat) can be used as a fuel source
  • Makes it difficult for us to form a habit for exercise (if we are not “morning people”)
  • Puts some of us at higher risk for heart attack (research suggests a generalized increased risk)

AN AFTERNOON WORKOUT:

Pros:

  • Increases exercise performance – our body temperature is ideal & muscles at peak strength
  • Prevents injuries – our muscles are sufficiently warm and most of us are alert in the late afternoon
  • Improves performance – the circadian rhythms in our brains are in an ideal state
  • Expels our bodies of stress that has accumulated during the day
  • Gives us something to look forward to before relaxing in the evening
  • Makes exercise seem easier – studies show perceived exertion of exercise is lower late in the day
  • Makes exercise convenient – exercising during our lunch break for example
  • Makes it easier to “partner up” or find a workout partner
  • Can help lower the amount of food we eat – by helping us to avoid large lunches for example
  • Can help reduce the amount of food we feel like eating for dinner
  • Helps us maximize our fitness and muscle size and strength – research shows 3-7 pm is best

Cons:

  • Imposes time limits which may not allow us to get in a full workout
  • Conflicts with distractions and other commitments that prevent us from exercising at all
  • Research suggests lung function is worse at noon which could affect our aerobic performance
  • Gyms are usually at their busiest around 5 to 6pm making it hard to get on equipment
  • Gyms sometimes have 20 minute time limits on aerobics equipment during the afternoon

AN EVENING WORKOUT:

Pros:

  • For most people, body temperature and hormone levels peak at 6 pm
  • Muscles are warm and flexible
  • Some of us are able to workout harder late in the day because the perceived exertion is lower
  • Can help regulate the amount of food we feel like eating for dinner
  • Late evenings don’t typically have the level of disruptions or distractions as other times of the day
  • Exercising at the gym is often easier later in the evening when other members have gone home
  • Late evening workouts can de-stress us and help us turn off our brain after a day of stimulation
  • Exercising at night can make us more relaxed and tired facilitating a better night’s sleep

Cons:

  • Distractions and conflicting commitments are more likely in the evening than in the mornings
  • Exercising late at night may energize some of us making it difficult to get off to sleep
  • Exercising outside at night is obviously more dangerous than during the morning or afternoon
  • During summer, evenings are the hottest part of the day making it uncomfortable to exercise
  • Night exercise doesn’t enjoy the “afterburn” effect – our metabolism drops when we fall asleep

 

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