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The Best Time of Day to Exercise


QUESTION:

I'm trying to schedule my new fitness plan.  Do you recommend working out in the morning or evening?

ANSWER:

There is no consensus on what time of day is best for exercising.  However, there are slight pros and cons of various times of day.  For instance, individuals who exercise in the morning are more likely to stick with their program.  This is most likely due to the fact that if you incorporate exercise into your morning routine, it becomes habitual and disruptions are minimal.  On the other hand, afternoon exercisers are more likely to have interruptions that interfere with their exercise session – a meeting runs late, the kid's ride to soccer practice cancels, etc.

On the flip side, there is some evidence that cardiac events and arrhythmias are more common in the early morning in individuals with disease.  In addition, body temperature is lower in the morning which could possibly lead to more injuries if not properly warmed up.

However, in the big picture of your exercise routine, the most important factor in determining the best time to exercise is your personal schedule and likes and dislikes.  If you're truly not a morning lark, then forcing yourself to exercise in the morning will most likely be unpleasant and lead to the detriment of your program.  I personally like to exercise in the late afternoon.  In the past, when I have forced early morning exercise, I tend to pucker out late morning.  It doesn't mesh well with my biological rhythm of being a night owl.  However, I can confirm from personal experience that there definitely are more obstacles in the afternoon.  But the fact that I feel stronger and more energetic when tackling my exercise at this time leads me to continue with this schedule.

Take an assessment of your likes and dislikes and the schedule that you typically fall into on most days.  Are you an early riser or do you prefer night hours?  What is your favorite exercise activity and is it available to you only at certain hours?  What are potential obstacles to the time of day that you plan for exercise?  For instance, if you prefer early evening but have the conflict of getting dinner on the table at a decent hour, how can you overcome this?  Can you take the weekend meals and have your spouse get dinner ready during the week?  Would bulk cooking on the weekend be an option for you?

Think long-term when considering your exercise time.  Ultimately, the most important factor is to exercise – period.  Choose the time that will allow you to be consistent overtime and succeed!

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Our expert, Dr. Sharon E. Griffin, holds a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in the areas of exercise science/physiology.  She also holds a second M.S. degree in Nutrition and is a licensed nutritionist and an ACSM certified health and fitness instructor.
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