Fit Family: The Best Time to Exercise

by Mike Levinson

When’s the best time to exercise?

runningExperts offer tips on finding the best time of day for your workout. Some people swear by a 6 a.m. workout to get their hearts racing and get them psyched up for the day. Others wouldn’t dream of breaking a sweat before noon, preferring a walk around the neighborhood after dinner. But is any one time of day the best time to exercise?

The truth is that there’s no reliable evidence to suggest that calories are burned more efficiently at certain times of day. But the time of day can influence how you feel when exercising.

The most important thing, experts say, is to choose a time of day you can stick with, so that exercise becomes a habit. Your body’s circadian rhythm determines whether you’re a night owl or an early bird, and there’s not much you can do to alter it. Circadian rhythm is an individual thing with all different times. These rhythms influence body functions such as blood pressure, body temperature, hormone levels, and heart rate, all of which play a role in your body’s ready and willingness to exercise. Using your body clock as a guide to when to go for a walk or hit the gym might seem like a good idea. But, of course, there are other important considerations, such as family and work schedules, or a friend’s availability to exercise with you.

If you have trouble with consistency, morning may be your best time to exercise, experts say. “Research suggests in terms of performing a consistent exercise habit, individuals who exercise in the morning tend to do better,” says Cedric Bryant, PhD, chief science officer with the American Council on Exercise in San Diego.

“The thinking is that they get their exercise in before other time pressures interfere,” Bryant says. “I usually exercise at 6 a.m., because no matter how well-intentioned I am, if I don’t exercise in the morning, other things will squeeze it out.” He recommends that if you exercise in the morning, when body temperature is lower, you should allow more time to warm up than you would later in the day. Unfortunately, hitting the snooze button repeatedly isn’t exercise. But, if you’ve suffered insomnia the night before, it can seem a lot more appealing than jumping out of bed and hitting the treadmill. Good, regular bedtime habits can help you beat insomnia. They include winding down before bedtime. Your body needs to get ready for sleep. You want your heart rate and body temperature in a rest zone. It starts the body getting into a habit of sleep. Exercising or eating too late sabotages your body’s urge to sleep.

Mike Levinson, a Calabasas resident, is a former amateur bodybuilding champion and registered dietitian who holds dual degrees in sports nutrition and physical education. He has worked extensively as a nutritionist with the California Angels baseball team and with famous athletes such as Charles Oakley, JT Snow and Sean Rooks. He also worked as a nutritionist for the Chicago Bears and the Oakland Raiders. 


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