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I was curious as to why people choose different times of the day to go for a workout or exercise. Some folks love the morning workout before heading out for their daily jobs or to start off their schedules while others love the evening workouts when they return from work.

Whichever way, it all seems as if everyday workouts are done at the time of convenience, right? Yes! And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with exercising at different periods during the day. But did you know that exercise at different hours of the day have specific benefits and effects?
Read on!

Truth be told, there is no reliable scientific evidence to prove that exercising at a particular time of day may increase your chances of losing more calories. But the time of day that exercise is done can actually affect how you feel during and afterward.

The beneficial effect obtained from exercise is generally determined by multiple systems of the body such as the motor, physiological, and neurobiological system.

In particular, the physiological and neurobiological activities present are dependent on biological rhythms in the human body; this is also known as circadian or diurnal rhythms.

The circadian or diurnal rhythm is your body’s clock. It determines whether you are a bright and early morning person or a night time type of person. It is governed by the earth’s rotation and influences certain systems in your body such as blood pressure, temperature, hormone levels, and heart rate and so on.

The argument, therefore, should not be about why one should not work out in the morning or afternoon or evening. Although there are tips and points to note before and after exercise, the key is to know which works for you using your circadian rhythm as a guide.

There should not be a reason for being sedentary (well, except you had a major surgery a few days ago) and because we all have different schedules, finding the time that is right for your workout is important as other activities might just steal that avenue from you.

Morning exercise

Light exposure and physical activity are two factors that provide direct feedback to the circadian system or rhythm. These and other findings might suggest a potential mediating pathway whereby exercise performed outside at certain times of day may engage a specific pathway (i.e. UV exposure and circadian rhythms).

Morning Exercise
Courtesy: Barewalls

There may also be an additive effect of light and exercise on circadian rhythm. Research shows that natural sunlight (exposed when being outside) is a stronger cue for the internal clock than electric lights, which might explain the “buzz” you feel after a morning jog or workout.

Therefore, exercise and time outdoors may occur in ways that are mutually beneficial or in ways that may send different feedback to the circadian system, depending on where, when, and how much of each is experienced.

Workouts in the morning might help with building consistency with a workout program. It is easier to flow into your exercise program before the hustle and bustle of family, neighbours, work and other distractions along the way.

Workouts in the morning might influence your choice of breakfast. One might tend towards a healthy snack or breakfast after a workout. Plus, it also helps to incorporate a balanced breakfast and eventually a healthy diet.

Research has identified that exposure to sunlight and physical activity level has an influence on sleep and sleep efficiency. Those with sleep problems might consider getting more outdoor time and light exposure during the morning (but not early morning if struggling with advanced sleep phase) as opposed to afternoon hours.

Morning exercisers might also have more consistent daily routines, which have been linked to fewer self-reported sleep problems and better functioning circadian systems.

Afternoon (lunchtime) exercise

Now I know for most people, this isn’t really the best option but it will do a lot of good to get a little sunlight or boost up your endorphin production.

Afternoon Exercise
Courtesy: washingtonpost.com

Research has shown that individuals who exercise later in the day tend to do better at their workouts as strength and flexibility peak later in the day as the body’s temperature is about 2 degrees warmer thus allowing your muscles to work efficiently with a decrease in risk of injury.

Don’t know what to do in the afternoon, take a brief 10min walk outside, stretch, dance, run on a treadmill or cycle! And always remember to keep hydrated at all times.

Evening exercise

This is when most people have enough time to hit the gym; so it can be more fun and sociable.

Some studies have observed the effect of different exercise training times on anaerobic performance, including peak anaerobic power, jump performance, etc. and have found that the group that was trained in the evening had greater improvements in anaerobic performance thus making anaerobic exercises at night time safe to do (if it works for you).

Evening Exercise
Courtesy: barewalls

One of the most important things to always have in mind is to avoid strenuous exercise at night time especially if it is close to bed time.

Most people find it hard to go right straight to bed after a strenuous workout and this is understandable as the increase in body temperature and rise in endorphins might be too stimulating for some people making it take longer for them to fall asleep.

But it isn’t quite the same for another fraction of people. So if high-intensity exercises make you sleep then keep at it!

Although in cases of extreme sleep deprivation or sleep disorders, exercise might not have a significant effect as shown in studies. Please see a physician or sleep specialist if you suffer from either.

Here are a few tips to remember before hitting the gym or before that workout:

  • Be prepared. Have a workout mind set.
  • Use good and comfy workout shoes and clothes
  • Stretch and Warm up
  • Stay hydrated
  • Always ask for help or assistance when stuck
  • Go in groups; it’s more fun to workout in groups. You’ll definitely enjoy the company.
  • Cool down or proper rest after exercise
  • Report injuries to the physiotherapist or physical activity instructor
  • And, Don’t over-do-it!

Sources

  • Dae Yun Seo, SungRyul Lee, Nari Kim, Kyung Soo Ko, Byoung Doo Rhee, Byung Joo Park, Jin Han. Morning and evening exercise Integrative Medicine Research ( 2 0 1 3 ) 139–144. Available at journal homepage: www.imr-journal.com
  • Dishman RK, Berthoud HR, Booth FW, Cotman CW, Edgerton VR, Fleshner MR, et al. Neurobiology of exercise. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2006;14:345–56.
  • Rupp T, Jubeau M, Millet GY,Wuyam B, Levy P, Verges S, et al. Muscle, prefrontal, and motor cortex oxygenation profiles during prolonged fatiguing exercise. Adv Exp Med Biol 2013;789:149–55.
  • Edwards AM. Respiratory muscle training extends exercise tolerance without concomitant change to peak oxygen uptake: Physiological, performance and perceptual responses derived from the same incremental exercise test. Respirology 2013;18:1022–7.
  • Meijer JH, Watanabe K, Detari L, Schaap J. Circadian rhythm in light response in suprachiasmatic nucleus neurons of freely moving rats. Brain Res 1996;741:352–5.
  • Atkinson G, Reilly T. Circadian variation in sports performance. Sports Med 1996;21:292–312.
  • Giovanna C, Andi W, Sigurd B, Angela M. Morning or evening exercise: effects on the heart rate circadian rhythm above the Arctic Circle. Sprot Sci Health 2010;1:9–16.
  • Park S, Jastremski CA, Wallace JP. Time of day for exercise on blood pressure reduction in dipping and nondipping hypertension. J Hum Hypertens 2005;19:597–605.
  • Youngstedt SD, Kline CE, Elliott JA, Zielinski MR, Devlin TM, Moore TA. (2016). Circadian phase-shifting effects of bright light, exercise, and bright light + exercise. J Circadian Rhythms. 2016; 14: 1±8.
  • Wright KP Jr, McHill AW, Birks BR, Griffin BR, Rusterholz T, Chinoy ED. Entrainment of the human circadian clock to the natural light-dark cycle. Curr Biol: CB. 2013; 23: 1554±1558. https://doi.org/10. 1016/j.cub.2013.06.039 PMID: 23910656
  • Whats the best time to exercise? Lenna skarnulis 2007 available at www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/whats-the-best -time-to-exercise
  • When is the best time of day to exercise: 6am, 1pm, 9pm? Rose Costello. Nov 6, 2017. Available at www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/health-family/fitness/when-is-the -best-time-of-day-to-exercise-6am-1pm-9pm/