What time of the day is the best time to exercise?

One of the questions I’m asked most frequently is “What time of day is the best time to exercise?”

My answer is usually, “what’s the best time for you?”

Work, travel, family, friends and unforeseen events can all interfere with your best intentions so rather than worrying about the optimum time for exercise just get on with it!

However in his recent book, ‘When – The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing’, Daniel Pink’s advice is to align the timing of your workouts with your goals.

Morning exercise is best for:

Weight loss.  Blood sugar reserves (glycogen) tend to be low when you first wake up as you haven’t eaten for several hours.  Rather than heading straight down to a full breakfast when you’re working away from home head out for a short run or brisk walk and in the absence of enough glycogen, your body will be forced to use fat to give you the energy you need.

If you’re planning to do a long run or high-intensity exercise in the morning, then running or exercising with low glycogen stores is harder and you may inadvertently run or exercise at a slower pace, burning fewer calories overall.  Consider having a light (100 – 300 calories) carbohydrate-based snack or breakfast beforehand (30 – 60 minutes).

Boost mood.  Cardio workouts like swimming, running and brisk walking can enhance your mood and if you do them first thing in the morning the effects will last throughout your working day.  If you wait until the end of the business day you may well sleep through your good mood!

If you’re travelling long-haul, then running in the morning may also help adjust your body clock aiding your recovery from jet-lag, reducing your fatigue and irritability throughout the day.

Strength building.  The hormone testosterone is a building and burning hormone and it specifically helps to build muscle.  If bulking up is your goal, hit the hotel gym in the morning rather than evening when your testosterone levels are higher.

Evening exercise is best for:

Avoiding injury.  You’ve been up and moving around all day so your muscles will be warmer and less prone to injury later in the day.  Body temperature peaks in the early evening so your muscles will be more elastic than in the morning.

Peak performance.  According to Pink, it’s in the evening “when strength peaks, reaction time quickens, hand-eye coordination sharpens and heart rate and blood pressure drop”.  His research shows more Olympic records are set in the late afternoon and early evening than earlier in the day.

Enjoyment.  There’s a perception that less effort is required during an evening workout than a morning workout even if the exercises performed are exactly the same.

So ask yourself this.  “What are my reasons for exercising when I’m travelling for business?”

If you’re looking to lose weight or build strength set your alarm a little earlier and exercise before your morning meetings.  Equally, if you love the boost exercise gives to your mood or recovering from jet-lag, then a morning workout is what you need too.

If you struggle with injury save your workout for the end of the day and if you’re striving for peak performance and fast improvements it could be an after dinner exercise plan is what you need.

Ultimately my original advice stands, exercise at a time that fits best with your business travel schedule rather than not at all.

However, if you’ve control over your schedule and you’re serious about your goals exercise according to Pink’s advice.

©  ExtraVitality 2018

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Author: Julie Dennis
Julie Dennis is a fitness coach specializing in weight loss and body transformation results. She is a level 4 skilled personal trainer and a qualified member of the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs). Julie also holds a UK Athletics Leadership in Running Fitness qualification. Prior to training as a fitness coach and establishing herself in the health & fitness industry, Julie spent over 20 years behind a desk in London employed in a variety of roles in the management consultancy, executive search and mining industries. Whilst working as part of a global team at Rio Tinto Julie experienced first hand the challenges of incorporating fitness and wellbeing into an international travel schedule. A keen marathon runner she often found running whilst on a long a haul trip an ideal reliever for jet lag.

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