Some people are alarm clock exercisers.
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Their alarm goes off at 5 or 6 a.m., and they are up and ready to face their day, starting with a tough workout that sets the pace for the rest of the day.
Others like to catch a few more zzz’s and blow off steam after work, school, or other activities as a means to relieve stress while doing something positive for their health.
Technically, the best time of day to exercise is the time of day you will consistently work out. However, there are some body cues that you may wish to listen to that could help you tap into higher amounts of energy and follow your body’s natural patterns of sleeping and waking.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, people who engage in morning exercise tend to have lower blood pressure and sleep better than those who do not. Another research study from Appalachian State University found that exercisers that worked out at 7 a.m. had deeper and longer sleep cycles than those who did not.
These deeper sleep cycles are associated with reparative sleep that helps a person feel more refreshed upon waking.
In addition to these benefits of morning exercise, those who wake up early and get their workout routine done are more likely to stick with their exercise routine. Because the morning is generally free of the distractions that can come as the day progresses, morning exercise can often represent a way to check exercise off your daily to-do list.
However, afternoon exercise is not without its benefits. Exercising in the late afternoon — between the hours of 2 to 6 p.m. — is associated with greater
muscle function, according to a study published in “Chronobiology International.”
Additionally, people who exercise in the afternoon tend to have more energy than those exercising in the morning. When you wake up, you are building your energy. In the afternoon, you tend to have established your energy levels (unless, of course, you work at a very strenuous job).
The key with afternoon exercise is to avoid making your exercise session too late in the evening. Heart-pumping exercise can make your body feel more awake, extending the amount of time it may take for you to fall asleep. You’ll also want to refrain from eating until after you’ve exercised as eating before diverts blood flow away from your muscles and to your digestive tract instead.
Find Your Flow
There’s an X factor in the morning versus afternoon exercise debate: What your body likes to do. If you have the availability to exercise at different times of the day, try a week of exercising in the morning, followed by a week of exercising in the mid- to late-afternoon.
After this experiment, think to yourself what exercise routine you preferred, what made you feel the best, and what helped you to exercise at the level to which you are accustomed. Now that you know around what time of day is best for you, commit to making exercise a habit. If you exercise consistently around the same day every time, you are most likely to stick with your exercise program. Continually switching around the time you exercise often results in less compliance with your workout routine.
One additional thought to contemplate is that exercise doesn’t always have to be a morning or afternoon. Sometimes it can be both. You could try a 15- minute yoga video in the morning when you wake up and take a 30-minute walk on your afternoon lunch break. You don’t have to complete your exercise routine entirely at one time or another to reap the benefits.