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Fitness & Exercise

What's the Best Time to Exercise?

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

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."

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