What’s the Best Time to Exercise? – Sports Medicine Weekly Podcast & Blog | Dr. Brian J. Cole
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Published on: 12-Feb-2021

Recent studies show that late afternoon exercise may be more effective for fat loss and metabolic control than early morning; The best time of day to exercise is whenever you can manage to do it, but if you have a choice late afternoon may be best.

I’ve been concerned about underactivity amongst all age groups during Covid-19 restrictions and have written about this. Today, let’s look at a related question: is there a best time of day to exercise?

 

  • The short answer is: whenever you can.
  • The more nuanced answer is: probably between 3pm and 6pm, if you’re an adult looking for fat loss and metabolic control.

The Biologic Clock

Our bodies function in clocks that follow “circadian rhythms”. There’s extensive research showing that the rhythm of our days influences the quality of our health. Studies in both animals and people indicate that every tissue in our bodies contains a kind of molecular clock that responds to our daily exposure to light, food and sleep.

Late Afternoon Exercise May Be Best For Fat Loss And Metabolism

For many adults, the primary goal of exercise is weight loss and body fat loss. In a recently published study, researchers looked at men with prediabetes and found that those who completed afternoon workouts upped their metabolic health far more than those who performed the same exercise earlier in the day. The results add to growing evidence that when we exercise may alter how we benefit from that exercise.

much-discussed 2019 study supported the idea that afternoon workouts are best and found that men with Type 2 diabetes who completed a few minutes of high-intensity interval sessions in the afternoon substantially improved their blood-sugar control after two weeks. If they did the same intense workouts in the morning, however, their blood-sugar levels actually spiked in an unhealthy fashion.

The two studies above were conducted with male participants who were either prediabetic, or who had diagnosed Type 2 diabetes. Are the results similar in non-diabetics and women?

Unfortunately, we don’t have as much data to reach conclusions in those groups. But one study has shown that fat burning and weight loss were better in morning workouts in a group of obese but non-diabetic men.

Regardless of timing, doing exercise is better than not exercising. The best time of day for you to exercise is whenever you can do it. But if you’ve got a choice, it may be better for fat loss and metabolic control for you to exercise sometime in the late afternoon.


By: Dev Mishra, M.D., Founder and President, Sideline Sports Doc , Medical Director, Apeiron Life Fellow, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons; Institute For Joint Restoration, Menlo Park, CA

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