When Is the Best Time to Exercise?
There are many theories out there concerning when the best time to exercise is. But the first question to ask is what is your goal? Because for some people, “the best time” means the time when we are strongest or burn the most calories; for others it’s the time that fits into our schedules or makes it most likely that we’ll stick to a routine long-term. Or it could even be the time that whatever event you’re training for is starting, like an early morning marathon.
Let’s take the first scenario—you want to find out when your body is most ready for exertion. We’ll assume that you’ve tried a few different times of day and can’t determine which is working best for you (because if you already know your body well enough and know when you workout most efficiently, you can stop reading now).
The human body follows circadian rhythms, which result from the firing of neurons originating in the hypothalamus region of the brain. These rhythms are set according to the 24-hour cycle of darkness and light and regulate things like your body temperature, metabolism and blood pressure (that’s why you feel awful when your sleep schedule gets out of whack).
You’ll probably have a more productive workout when your body temperature is at its highest because your muscles are warm and more flexible. Studies show you have more power, quicker reaction time and resting heart rate and blood pressure are low. For most people, body temperature is highest during the late afternoon (it’s usually lowest about one to three hours before you wake up in the morning).
All this doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have time to exercise in the afternoon or can’t realistically commit to a long-term routine of working out at this time. If you know you’re more likely to stick to working out if you do it in the morning, then that’s the most important thing to concentrate on.
If you’re training for a specific event like a morning marathon or afternoon event then it may be best for you to train at the time that you will be performing. You’ll get a better sense of how your body can perform at that time of day and you’ll get into a habit of exerting energy at that time.
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