It’s well known that exercise positively impacts your wellness. Not only does it decrease the risk of many health concerns like hypertension, type 2 diabetes, pain, and some cancers (to name a few), but it has also been found to lower the risk of all cause mortality. Daily exercise is strongly encouraged, and new studies have also honed in on the benefits of when during the day that exercise is most effective. Make no mistake, if you can’t squeeze in the routine in the morning, when studies show it has the most benefit, that doesn’t mean it isn’t helping. Exercising later in the day also has an upside. Ultimately, any physical activity is going to provide benefits-no matter what time of day-and even if it is broken up throughout the day.
Wake up and shake a leg
Exercising in the morning has many benefits:
- Gets your day started on the right foot: Routine is one of the main factors in achieving a goal. The more exercise is a part of your routine, like brushing your teeth, the more likely you are to do it without giving it a second thought. According to sources, it takes roughly 21 days to build an exercise “habit”, and those days are going to pass regardless- may as well start a positive habit and get moving!
- Improves mood: Exercise is one way to boost your endorphins, no matter what time of day. What better way to start the day than with a sunny outlook? You will feel more upbeat and ready to take on the day’s challenges if you add in a morning workout.
- Beat the heat: If you live in any Arizona, this is particularly true for about half the year. If you’ve ever put off your morning walk, run, or outdoor fitness session because of the heat, you know the earlier you get out, the better. Knock it out- start your morning routine nice and early and benefit from not only the cooler weather, but the additional benefits of morning exercise.
- Fewer distractions: Once you open your email, get to the office, or start a project at home, it’s tough to set that aside. Make your wellness a priority and allow yourself the time before you focus on other tasks.
- You’re more alert: The body’s natural hormone fluctuations provide a more alert state in the morning. Cortisol is often referred to as a stress hormone, but it only causes issues when at higher levels for prolonged periods of time. Otherwise, it supports alertness. It naturally increases in the morning, reaching a peak around 8 a.m., if you have a healthy circadian rhythm.
Science backs it too
Many studies have found evidence that morning exercise benefits our health for a variety of ways- from how we perceive food throughout the day, to increased weight loss.
- Encourages additional physical activity: A study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise that included participants of normal and obese body weights (according to BMI) found that participants that exercised in the morning took on more physical activity throughout the day than those who didn’t exercise in the morning.
- Increases metabolism: Exercise increases your metabolism, keeping it running more efficiently throughout the day as you consume calories as opposed to overnight when there are less calories to burn.
- Changes how you perceive food throughout the day: Studies have evaluated how women responded to food after working out in the morning. Participants that walked briskly for 45 minutes were shown to be less distracted by food images compared to when they didn’t exercise.
- Helps you sleep better: Exercise increases your body temperature and heart rate. Part of the sleep cycle is your body cooling down- exercising in the evening may hinder your body’s natural transition into the sleep cycle. If you opt for a sweat session in the evening, aim to be done no later than 1.5 hours before sleep to allow your body to transition.
- Burn more fat: Some studies show evidence that exercising on an empty stomach can burn up to 20% more body fat than exercising after you’ve started consuming foods. Researchers have also found that the 24-hour fat burn was higher with morning exercise on an empty stomach. If you find that you need a little bit of a boost before you work out don’t avoid it. But, do reach for a healthy source of energy like bananas, oats, fruit and Greek yogurt, or nuts.
- It’ll support a productive day: A 2019 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that morning exercise improves attention, visual learning, and decision-making. Participants were found to have overall better cognition throughout the day.
No worries if you aren’t able to squeeze in a workout in the morning. Your daily rhythm may not allow for it, but that doesn’t mean that all benefits are lost. Exercising in the evening also provides your body different benefits:
- Muscle function and strength peak in the afternoon: Your body temperature increases throughout the day and peaks between 2-6 p.m. Your muscles are consequently primed for a workout in the evening. Strength, enzyme activity, and endurance are all at their peak in this state and support you in completing a great workout.
- Oxygen intake is faster in the evening: Your body is working most efficiently in the evening hours, with oxygen uptake kinetics (meaning how the body consumes and delivers oxygen to muscles and tissues that need it) at its peak. Morning workouts require more warmup to get you into the same state, adding to the time that is needed and potentially the focus you put into your overall workout.
- Reaction times are faster: Afternoon and evening workouts have been shown to include a faster reaction time because of increased body temperature, cardiovascular efficiency and peak muscular strength.
- You may sleep better: Yes, we know- we said the same thing about morning exercise. But that only goes to show that exercise is never a bad thing, but timing is everything. One study found that people that lifted weights in the evening slept better, and for longer, than those who lifted weights in the morning. To get optimal sleep, end your workout 1.5 hours before sleep to allow your body to cool down and shift into its sleep cycles.
Exercise is essential to our wellness. No matter what time of day, or how many different ways you have to splice your workout session to get in those minutes, make it a priority. You will feel better in the immediate, and studies show that including exercise into your routine will benefit you in the long haul as well.