Is there a best time of day to exercise? Two of the top reasons people give for not exercising regularly include lack of results and lack of time. So, for many people, the best time to exercise is the time that is most convenient and the time that fits into a busy schedule.
Research on exercise and time of day is growing but is still limited and not without controversy. In general, if you can find a time for exercise that you can stick with consistently, you will be much more likely to train regularly and get better results.
Circadian Rhythms and Exercise
Human sleep and wake cycles follow a daily cycle called circadian rhythms. It’s this cycle that regulates our body temperature, blood pressure, alertness, and metabolism, among other physiological functions. In general, these rhythms conform to our 24-hour day and may be reset based on environmental cues. The time of day that we typically exercise is one of these cues.
The ability to adjust your rhythms is important, especially if you are training for a specific event. Studies show that your ability to maintain exercise intensity will adapt to your training time. Therefore, if you do your marathon training in the morning, you may perform better on race day (marathons typically start in the morning). If you usually train in the evening, a morning race day may leave you feeling weaker and slower.
Individual Differences and Exercise Timing
Some people are just naturally morning people. They have no trouble exercising first thing in the morning. Others don’t get moving as quickly and are more likely to prefer exercising later in the day. If you have such an obvious preference, it’s easy to decide what sort of exercise schedule you will be able to stick to. The interesting thing is that research shows that no matter when you think you are better able to exercise, almost all of us are physically stronger and have more endurance in the late afternoon.
Not everyone is able to choose to exercise when they feel like it. Work and family commitments often take priority and we end up squeezing in time to exercise. If you find that the only time available to exercise is when you least feel like it, don’t despair. As mentioned earlier, you can change your rhythms and your body can adapt to a new exercise time. However, it may take about a month to reset your internal exercise clock.
The Bottom Line
So, the answer to the question ‘what is the best time to exercise?’ is that you can decide based on your personal goals, schedule, and lifestyle. Ideally, you will pick a time that you are able to commit to consistently and make a part of your daily or weekly schedule. If you are training for an event, it’s wise to modify your training to accommodate the event start time, apart from that enjoy your exercise whenever you can!