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  • Claire Grainger

When is the best time of day to exercise?

We all know we should exercise regularly. But with our busy schedules, one of the biggest obstacles can be when to fit the exercise in. For most of us, the best time is before or after work - but does morning or evening exercise have the biggest impact on results, weight loss and sleep?

Could a morning workout have more impact?

Aligning our internal clocks with the natural world helps give our metabolisms a boost. A study showed that people who enjoyed sunlight within two hours after waking tended to be thinner and better able to manage their weight than people who didn't get any natural light, regardless of what they ate throughout the day. Initial research would also seem to suggest that the weight loss benefits are greater with morning exercise. When we work out on an empty stomach our body has has a different response to exercising after a meal. Because we effectively fast overnight, our pre-breakfast bodies are reliant on fat as its primary fuel source. Researchers found those who exercised in the morning ate less throughout the day, and subsequently, lost 1kg more over six weeks than those who chose an evening group.

The benefits of evening exercise

However, before you ditch the evening workouts in favour of an early start, it’s also worth remembering that an evening workout has many benefits too. According to new research published in Experimental Physiology, 30 minutes of high-intensity exercise performed in the early evening may also reduce feelings of hunger. And Swiss researchers also found vigorous exercise performed one-and-a-half hours before bedtime was associated with falling asleep faster, fewer awakenings in the night, and better mood states. In addition to appetite reduction and improved sleep, it seems we work harder in the afternoon and early evening. A study published in the Journal Of Sports Sciences found that between 4 and 8 p.m. power output, grip strength, vertical jump, and even reaction time were at their best compared to other times of day.

So is there really a better time of day to exercise?

If your office job’s so draining that you can barely make it to the car at 5:30, planning in a Les Mill BodyPump class is probably not going to work. Just like if you’re so prone to late-night NetFlix binges, morning workouts are probably not sustainable. Sticking to a workout plan isn’t easy when we have competing demands like work and family commitments. There are advantages to both morning and evening exercise, but to get the most health benefits from exercise, the best time of day to exercise is when you will actually do it.

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