When Is the Best Time of Day to Exercise?

There’s much discussion around the best time of day to exercise. For many people, exercising first thing in the morning is the way to go while others prefer heading to the gym after they have finished work for the day. While each person has their own preference, a new study has found a certain time to be more beneficial when it comes to metabolic health.

The study, published in The Physiological Society journal, looked at exercise timing and metabolic health in men at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. According to The New York Times, researchers found that those who worked out in the afternoon experienced a far bigger increase in their metabolic health than those who engaged in the same exercise in the morning.

This research adds to the list of growing evidence that suggests that timing does play an important role in the benefits you see from exercise. A professor of nutrition and movement sciences at Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands, Patrick Schrauwen, also studied this phenomenon and found similar results.

Dr Schrauwen and his team asked adult men at risk of Type 2 diabetes to ride stationary bikes in a laboratory three times a week for 12 weeks. During this time, the researchers tracked the participants’ metabolic health. According to The New York Times, when comparing the 12 men who worked out between 8am and 10am to the 20 other men who exercised between 3pm and 6pm, the benefits experienced by those in the latter category “decisively trumped those of morning exercise”.

In fact, at the end of the 12 weeks, those who engaged in afternoon exercise experienced significantly better average insulin sensitivity compared to the morning exercisers, which resulted in better blood sugar control.

“I believe that doing exercise is better than not doing exercise, irrespective of timing,” Dr Schrauwen told The New York Times. “However, this study does suggest that afternoon exercise may be more beneficial” for those with disrupted metabolisms.

The researchers weren’t able to pinpoint why exercising in the afternoon led to a greater change in metabolic health compared to morning exercise and the research was only conducted on men, so women could also respond differently. But, the outcomes are interesting, nonetheless.

Ultimately, Dr Schrauwen recommends working out when you have the time, as moving your body is better than no exercise at all.

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