When is the best time to exercise?

Posted: April 7th, 2017 | Featured, Health & Fitness, Lifestyle | No Comments

By Blake and Gwen Beckcom | Fitness

There have been many debates about the effectiveness of exercise during certain parts of the day. While nighttime workouts have been thought to disrupt sleep, new research adds in a new factor of the body’s circadian rhythm to determine the best time to exercise.

The human body has a circadian rhythm that corresponds with the cycles of the sun and the moon. Research has shown that muscles also follow this cycle, and therefore function better during the day. Oxygen works with our circadian rhythms inside muscle cells to create energy, which corresponds with the time of day.

Muscles can most efficiently use oxygen for energy during the day, or during their waking period. Researchers have genetically mutated the circadian clock in certain muscle fibers, leading to abnormalities while the muscles are at rest. Muscles vary throughout the day when it comes to their proteins, their effect on metabolism, and their production of lactic acid. This is why it is important to time your exercise right in order for it to be the most effective.

Several studies have been done to discover how to find one’s unique circadian rhythm. Because exercise releases biochemicals in the brain and body, exercise has been shown to almost certainly affect the body’s internal clock and circadian rhythm. Exercise makes the body be able to judge the amount of movement it needs, and when it should be resting.

When to exercise?

Exercising during the night is not the most effective method for your muscles or circadian rhythm. However, you must find out what time of day is most effective for your body to exercise. This may largely depend on your schedule.

If your schedule is flexible and you can choose when to exercise, there are some benefits to certain times of day. If you are going by your circadian rhythm, the best time to exercise is in the afternoon.

Body temperatures are typically a bit warmer in the afternoon than they are in the morning. This results in both better muscle performance as well as a decreased risk of injury.

Benefits of morning exercise

Some research also creates an argument for the effectiveness of a morning workout. Research has shown that 45 minutes of exercise right after you wake up may reduce food cravings throughout the day. Morning exercise has also been shown to result in an increase in overall daily physical activity.

It is also best to exercise in the morning while fasting. Exercising on an empty stomach can help prevent weight gain and a resistance to insulin. When fasting and exercising together, the impact of cellular factors is maximized, which forces fat to breakdown to create energy. If working out on a completely empty stomach is troublesome, you can drink a high-quality protein shake before your workout.

Evening not necessarily bad

While it may not be ideal to exercise in the evenings, if you must do so, you may not need to change your habits. A 2011 study found that people who vigorously exercised for 35 minutes just prior to going to sleep, slept equally well as they did on nights when they did not exercise.

Some polls have even reported people saying they sleep better after an evening workout. This has led the National Sleep Foundation to conclude that exercise is beneficial for sleep, no matter what time of day it is done.

If you are unsure when to exercise, you can do some trial and error to see what feels right. Try doing 30 days of morning exercise, followed by 30 days of afternoon exercise, or whatever your daily schedule allows you to do. With increasing research on the importance of circadian rhythms on our health, it may be best to exercise in the afternoon over any other time.

In the end, however, just pay attention to how you feel and let your body guide you to when it is best for you to exercise. It may even be that the best time to exercise could vary from day-to-day with varying schedules. Overall, any exercise is good exercise.

—Blake and Gwen Beckcom run Fitness Together Mission Hills. Contact them at

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