It's tough to find the time to work out, especially with a busy lifestyle. Even more so if you're a parent, or someone with an extremely demanding job. Usually, the best time to work out is "whenever you can scrape a spare hour together".
However, there IS a definitively better time to work out, according to new research, and it's bad luck if you like to lace up the best running shoes for men, or best running shoes for women, before work. The study, published by Brigham Women's Hospital (opens in new tab), found men who performed physical activity in the morning had higher risks of developing coronary heart disease than those performing activity in midday, or in the evening.
The researchers monitored the health of more than 5,000 people who were already overweight or obese on an exercise programme, finding that the group who exercised in the morning had a higher risk of developing heart disease in later life. In addition, in a study of 20 young men (opens in new tab), it was found people who work out in the evening also take up to 20% longer to reach the point of exhaustion, so you can go harder for longer. There's a lot of evidence that evening workouts are preferable to morning routines.
It's not entirely conclusive, however. The Brigham study's authors could not account for the participant's varying circadian rhythms, and there was other factors at work. For example, a jog at 6 p.m. may be "evening exercise" for one person and "afternoon exercise" for another.
In addition, it's worth bearing in mind these benefits are good for an optimal workout experience, but really, the thing to bear in mind is that any exercise, at any time, is generally good for you. If you have no time to exercise in the evening, a morning workout is still preferable to not doing exercise at all. Whether weight training, yoga or cardiovascular exercises such as running, a morning workout can set our intention for the day.
If your evening often becomes consumed with making dinner, putting kids to bed, doing chores or even going out for dinner, you might not feel like you have time to exercise in the evening. However, waking up half an hour early to go for a jog removes those distractions.
If you struggle with getting up early and feeling spritely enough to hit the gym, we recommend checking out a sunrise alarm clock. No more using your phone as an alarm – these start from under $20 and beam sun-simulated light into the room to wake you up in a natural way. Check out our best sunrise alarm clocks guide for more details.
Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and News Editor at Fit&Well, covering all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.
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