What's the Best Time to Exercise?
Experts offer tips on finding the best time of day for your workout.
Some people swear by a 6 a.m. jog to get their hearts racing and get them psyched up for the day. Others wouldn't dream of breaking a sweat before noon, preferring a walk around the neighborhood after dinner. But is any one time of day the best time to exercise?
The truth is that there's no reliable evidence to suggest that calories are burned more efficiently at certain times of day. But the time of day can influence how you feel when exercising.
The most important thing, experts say, is to choose a time of day you can stick with, so that exercise becomes a habit.
Your Body Clock
Your body's circadian rhythm determines whether you're a night owl or an early bird, and there's not much you can do to alter it.
Circadian rhythm is governed by the 24-hour pattern of the earth’s rotation. These rhythms influence body functions such as blood pressure, body temperature, hormone levels, and heart rate, all of which play a role in your body's readiness for exercise.
Using your body clock as a guide to when to go for a walk or hit the gym might seem like a good idea. But, of course, there are other important considerations, such as family and work schedules, or a friend's availability to walk with you.
The Perks of Morning Exercise
If you have trouble with consistency, morning may be your best time to exercise, experts say.
"Research suggests in terms of performing a consistent exercise habit, individuals who exercise in the morning tend to do better," says Cedric Bryant, PhD, chief science officer with the American Council on Exercise in San Diego.
"The thinking is that they get their exercise in before other time pressures interfere," Bryant says. "I usually exercise at 6 a.m., because no matter how well-intentioned I am, if I don't exercise in the morning, other things will squeeze it out."
He recommends that if you exercise in the morning, when body temperature is lower, you should allow more time to warm up than you would later in the day.
When Insomnia Interferes
Unfortunately, hitting the snooze button repeatedly isn't exercise. But, if you've suffered insomnia the night before, it can seem a lot more appealing than jumping out of bed and hitting the treadmill.
Good, regular bedtime habits can help you beat insomnia. They include winding down before bedtime.
"Your body needs to get ready for sleep," says Sally A. White, PhD, dean and professor in the College of Education at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa."You want your heart rate and body temperature in a rest zone. It starts the body getting into a habit of sleep."
Exercising or eating too late sabotages your body's urge to sleep.
"Both exercise and eating raise your heart rate and temperature," White tells WebMD. "That's not conducive to sleeping."