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What's the Best Time to Exercise?

Experts offer tips on finding the best time of day for your workout.

When Later Is Better

White, who studies achievement motivation in exercise and other areas, says that in spite of good intentions to get up early and get her exercise over with, she is more likely to exercise after work.

"It's easier to get my body into a rhythm because I'm not fighting my body the way I do in the morning," she says.

For some people, lunchtime is the best time to exercise, especially if co-workers keep you company. Just be sure to eat after you work out, not before.

"Don't exercise immediately following a meal," says Bryant, who lectures internationally on exercise, fitness and nutrition. "The blood that needs to go to your muscles is going to your digestive tract. Give yourself 90 minutes after a heavy meal."

Finding Your Own Best Time to Exercise

You don't have to be an expert on circadian rhythms to determine the best time to exercise. Steven Aldana, PhD, advises trying different times of the day.

Work out in the morning for a few weeks, then try noon, then early evening. Which do you enjoy most and which makes you feel best afterward? Also, consider the type of exercise, and other daily commitments.

"Most of all, find a time that helps you make your exercise a regular, consistent part of your life," says Aldana, a professor of lifestyle medicine in the department of exercise sciences at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. "This is more important than the time of day."

Establishing the Exercise Habit

One day, you'll reach a point where daily exercise comes as naturally as breathing. At that point, you may want variety.

"In an effort to stay regularly active, some people change the type of exercise they do and the time of day they do it," says Aldana, author of The Stop & Go Fast Food Nutrition Guide.  "Keeping it fresh makes it more enjoyable and more likely to be continued."

But if you're still at the point where exercise is hit or miss, scheduling it for the same time each day will help you make it a habit. Whether you choose morning, lunchtime, or after work to exercise, make it part of your routine.

"People who are just starting out and who exercise randomly are more likely to drop out," White says.

She adds that starting out can be as simple as changing the route you come home from work so that you drive by a gym.  "Get into the habit of going that way, and keep a bag of exercise gear in your car or at work," she says.

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Reviewed on May 22, 2007

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