Is there an ideal time to work out? Exercise is always good for physical and mental health, but researchers now suggest that exercising in the morning, at specific times, could have a number of advantages – starting with weight management.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that adults aged 18 to 64 should get 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week, combined with muscle-strengthening activity at least twice a week. But little is known about the ideal time to do these workouts.
A team of researchers recently investigated the “diurnal pattern” of moderate to vigorous physical activity to determine its influence on obesity. In other words, they set out to determine the best time of day to engage in this kind of exercise for optimal weight management.
Published in the journal “Obesity”, their research is based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States.
Over 5,280 people were divided into three categories according to a specific algorithm, determining at what time of day they engaged in moderate to vigorous physical activity (morning, noon and evening).
The conclusion was that mornings are the ideal time to bolster the benefits of exercise in combating obesity, and thus improve weight management.
Specifically, the researchers observed a lower body mass index and waist circumference in participants who engaged in physical activity in the morning. The latter also had a healthier diet and lower daily energy intake than the other two groups.
Importantly, the experts report that these results were sustained over time, despite a high propensity for sedentary behaviour in the morning group.
Finally, it was between 7am and 9am that moderate to vigorous physical activity appeared to be most effective for weight management.
“This is exciting new research that is consistent with a common tip for meeting exercise goals: to schedule exercise in the morning before emails, phone calls or meetings that might distract you,” says Rebecca Krukowski, a clinical psychologist with expertise in behavioural weight management.
Still, the expert, who was not involved in this research, points out that this cross-sectional study has certain limitations.
“It is not known whether people who exercise consistently in the morning may be systematically different from those who exercise at other times, in ways that were not measured in this study,” she explained.
For example, she said, “the ‘morning larks’ who consistently rise early enough for morning exercise may be biologically different from their ‘night owl’ counterparts”.
And that factor should be taken into account in further research into the benefits of morning-based moderate to vigorous physical activity on obesity.