Time would be one of the biggest universal barriers to consistent and regular participation in exercise based on my experience and reading a lot of studies that talk about barriers to exercise adherence, which is a fancy term for doing exercise regularly!
Firstly, is there a best time to exercise? Well, it depends. Here is a summary of a few interesting articles I have recently read:
- For patients with Coronary Heart Disease, walking in the evening was more beneficial than in the morning. The article examined sedentary patients (330 total sample size) where they were split into three groups, Morning, Evening and Control (Nil walking). The measurement of success were blood lipid and inflammatory markers essentially. I thought this was an interesting study, however I feel that based on reading this study, much more evidence in terms of the differences found needs to be investigated.
2. A study looking at the perceived exertion of the same type of exercise in the morning and evening found that the perceived effort of working out in the morning was significantly higher to the same workout in the evening. Especially the warm up was seen to be different with the morning group perceiving the warm up to be significantly more challenging than the evening group.
3. Other studies have linked morning exercise to greater work productivity, better quality sleep and lower blood pressure. Another few studies examining the benefits of exercise on weight loss in the mornings found that people can be more likely to eat a healthier option when having exercised in the morning.
4. In terms of physiologically, performing heavy weight training early in the morning for sports such as rowing and weight lifting can be linked to back pain reporting. Largely, this can be linked back to the de-compressive nature of sleep on vertebral discs and the rapid compressive loading that resistance or impact training places on the vertebral column.
5. Evening training can be seen to be more beneficial in terms of resistance training and aerobic performance overall. Many studies I have reviewed have stated benefits that are greater in performance nature when training in the evening compared to morning.
So, is there a best time to exercise? If you are chasing productivity at work and a decrease in stress levels, the morning exercise may well be more beneficial for you! However if you are chasing performance, then evening training may be better for you.
The guidelines by the American College of Sports Medicine talk about 150mins of moderate intensity aerobic exercise per week as a minimum and 2 to 3 x 45min resistance training sessions per week as a minimum.
From experience, my suggestion would be:
If training in the morning, make sure you do a longer than normal, graduating intensity warm up to make sure you increase blood flow to working muscles, since you have most likely just woken up before starting.
With resistance training in the morning, our general guidelines are to perform a few exercising building up to any high intensity resistance training. Our recommendation is to not go straight to high exertion straight away. We find that people perform better in the morning with strength work at the end of the session.
In the evening however, we will generally do a movement specific warm up, with less aerobic warm up especially if the person has been more active during the day. We will progress to strength training quicker with then exercises that calm the body down if training in the evening. Most of the feedback about training “hard” in the evening is that people cannot sleep due to the excitability nature of training. So, we recommend at least a few exercises at the end that provide a relaxative effect, such as static stretching, yoga or breathing based exercises to let the CNS calm down to a state that will hopefully allow for sleep to happen!
Of course, these are just some opinions on time to train. Some people don’t have much choice on when you can train, due to the scheduling of your life, so it is our job to create programs that deliver an outcome to people with the barriers to optimal performance that exist. It might raise questions about some of the effects of training you notice and if so, that is great!
Glenn Hansen is the Director of Coaching at Vector Health & Performance. One of his special interests is training people over 50 to absolute optional physical health. The time of exercise is always something that is a challenge for busy people, which is why it is a topical point. If this article raises questions or you want any help with a review or programming for your health please contact email@example.com or call 07 4927 8190. Glenn consults face to face in Rockhampton and virtually if you live outside of Rockhampton.