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When is the best time of day to exercise?

As we find ourselves nearing the end of February, many of us might be looking back on those New Year’s Resolutions and reconsidering. You might be wondering, is it really realistic to squeeze in a workout every day? After all, we’re busy women! Some days it might just be impossible between juggling work and family responsibilities. However, all you really need is 11 minutes a day to receive a boost in health benefits from exercise. But when is the best time to exercise? Is it better to exercise in the morning? What about night workouts? 

It really all depends on you. There are benefits for both morning exercise and night workouts, but the key to choosing any workout is: consistency. 

If you’re a morning person, or find yourself with lots of free time in the early hours of the day, then a morning exercise routine would probably suit you best. However, if you’re a night owl, you may benefit from night exercises. Or maybe you’re only free in the afternoons. 

That being said, morning workouts, afternoon workouts, and night workouts all have their advantages and disadvantages as proven by decades of scientific research, so let’s breakdown the pros and cons of each. 

morning workout, best time to exercise

Rise and shine with a morning workout. (Photo by Mor Shani on Unsplash)

Benefits of morning workouts 

Help you establish a fitness routine: People who exercise in the morning are often more consistent simply because morning workouts leave less room for excuses. If you workout first thing in the morning, you can’t skip it in the evening because duties piled up. 

May improve your sleep cycle: Waking up early might be difficult at first, but research suggests that a morning exercise habit can shift your circadian rhythm, making your body naturally more alert in the morning and more tired in the evening, so you fall asleep earlier and can exercise in the morning again. Morning exercise also seems to boost deep sleep more than evening exercise, according to some research

Might burn more fat: Exercising on an empty stomach — in the “fasted state” — has been proven to burn more fat than exercising after a meal. This happens because your body utilizes fat stores that already exist to fuel exercise, rather than use the food you just ate as fuel.

Can make you more productive: Research has found that exercising in the morning has a beneficial effect on energy levels, alertness, focus and decision-making, resulting in a more productive workday.

May boost your mood throughout the day: Morning workouts are a great way to start each day on a high note — the endorphins or “happy chemicals” your body produces in response to exercise can keep your mood elevated long past your hour-long workout. 

Drawbacks of morning workouts 

Running on low fuel: If you didn’t eat enough the evening before, you might find yourself battling serious hunger mid-workout. If you wake up hungry most days, try eating a larger dinner or a small, protein-dense snack before bed. You can also eat a small, carb-heavy snack before your morning workout, such as a banana, to help avoid hunger and hunger-related fatigue. 

Physical performance isn’t at its peak: Most of us don’t roll out of bed feeling ready to do an exercise routine. You might experience stiffness in your joints and temporary inflexibility. You should loosen up as you warm up, but studies actually show that certain strength markers, including peak power, are higher in the evening.

It takes longer to warm up: Speaking of warm-ups, there’s a key reason you might not feel as strong or powerful during morning workouts: Your core body temperature is lower. This makes warming up crucial for morning workouts — jumping into a workout, rather than slowly easing in, can result in injury. This is true all of the time, but especially when your body is cooler. 

Benefits of afternoon and night workouts 

night workout

Photo by Zac Ong on Unsplash

Improved physical performance: Research shows that most people function better physically later in the day. Muscle strength, flexibility, power output and endurance are all better in the evening than they are in the morning. Plus, people who exercise in the evening take up to 20% longer to reach the point of exhaustion.

Your body gets warmer as the day goes on: Since your core temperature is warmer later in the day, many people can get into the groove faster for afternoon and evening workouts. You should still warm up though!

Late-day exercise can relieve stress: Exercise is a great way to relieve daily stress, but working out at night can really help you blow off some steam. The surge of endorphins you get during and after exercise can help you wind down before bed after a long day.  

Might help replace bad habits: If you have some evening or nighttime habits you want to replace — like snacking, drinking, smoking or binge watching TV shows — exercise can be a good replacement. Once you get into the practice of exercising at night, you might find yourself surprised that you don’t even miss your old habits. 

Drawbacks of afternoon and night workouts 

Might interfere with sleep: It’s a myth that night exercises are detrimental to one’s sleep. In fact, scientists have found that exercising at night may have no effects on sleep at all, and some may even get a better night’s sleep. However, some people might experience jitters if they work out too close to bedtime, though this usually only applies to high intensity workouts like CrossFit or HIIT.  

May cause problems with consistency: For many, exercising at night does not work, simply because people are too tired after a long day. Afternoon and evening workouts might interfere with daily responsibilities, especially if things tend to pile up during the day. If that sounds like you, try shifting your daily routine to fit in a short morning workout. 

Ultimately, the right time to exercise is not about how many calories you burn or how much weight you lift — it’s more about how you feel while exercising and how exercise fits into your own personal daily schedule. The key to finding the best time to exercise, is to find a time you can consistently stick to. Consistency is key. So, don’t go throwing your New Year’s Resolutions out the window just yet. You got this!  

working out from home

Reach your New Year fitness goals with just 11 minutes of exercise a day

Every year we all make the same New Year’s resolutions. This year will definitely be the year you say, as you head back to the gym for the first time in months. However, this year, the gyms are closed, throwing yet another frustrating road block against our New Year fitness goals.

The COVID-19 pandemic has kept us all inside and sedentary for much longer than any of us would like, raising some concerns about the long term health effects of sedentary lifestyles.

We already know sitting at a desk for hours a day isn’t good for us, but it often seems impossible to squeeze in a daily workout, especially when for years we have been told to live by the “1 hour of exercise” rule. Some days, one full hour just isn’t possible. Luckily, a new study has found that we can still reap health benefits by exercising for just 11 minutes a day. Maybe we won’t have to scrap our fitness goals just yet.  

Benefits of just 11 minutes of exercise a day

In the study conducted by the Norwegian School of Sports Medicine, researchers found that just 11 minutes of moderate exercise per day can give you long-term health benefits, offset the effects of prolonged sitting, and add years to your life. 

The study sampled 44,000 men and women for a period between four and 14 and a half years, using activity monitors to measure “moderate-to-vigorous” physical activity. Researchers used these calculations and compared them to participant’s time while sedentary. Through their data they found that overall, people who exercised for 35 minutes a day saw the biggest results in terms of health, but the study also showed that those who exercised at least 11 minutes a day also saw benefits. 

Reaching your New Year fitness goals doesn’t seem so daunting when it’s just 11 minutes, right? But 11 minutes is much less than the “1 hour” previous studies have reported, so what’s changed? Well, nothing, except how researchers approached collecting their data. Previous studies relied on “self-reported exposure data,” meaning exercise times were based on people’s recollections of physical activity, rather than hard data. Human memory is flawed, as we all know, and many people are prone to either overestimate their exercise time and intensity, or underestimate the amount of time spent sedentary. 

You might be interested: Wheatgrass: How you can boost your health while working from home

Reaching your fitness goals: Exercises to try at home

So what can you do to reach your 11 minute exercise quota and stick to your New Year fitness goals? 

There are tons of options. Here are our top 5: 

office exercises

Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash

Yoga: Practicing yoga is a great way to get your body moving while also relieving stress and fostering your mind-body connection. If you’ve been practicing yoga for a while, just unroll your mat, set a timer for 11 minutes and go through any number of combinations of your favorite yoga poses. If you’re new to yoga there are also many resources online. Just open up YouTube and search for some beginner yoga videos to get yourself started. 

Full body workout: When selecting your exercises, try to pick a sequence of movements that will engage your body in a workout of moderate effort. Mix in cardio and weights to reap the most benefits. There are plenty of great short workout routines to follow online, many of which require no equipment either. This 10 minute standing abs workout is one of my go-tos. 

Dancing: Who doesn’t love to dance? This one is pretty easy and requires no equipment. Just pop on some of your favorite upbeat tunes and get moving! Dance like no one’s watching. You only need about 3 – 4 songs to reach your 11 minute mark, but you’ll likely want to keep going once you get into it. 

A brisk walk: Many of us underestimate the power of a good walk. While winter months may make it more of a challenge or daunting task, a short brisk walk every day will do wonders for your health. Additionally, just spending time in nature while you move will also help improve your mental health. However, if you really can’t get outside for a walk, then try this indoor walking routine.

Bike riding: Lastly, like walking, bike riding often gets looked over. But again, the benefits of a quick bike ride are so worth it. Just take a spin around the block. You can even go on a social distance bike ride with friends or family. And being out in nature will boost your mood too.