High levels of physical activity (regular exercise) offers the body many benefits. It:
- Builds lean muscle
- Increases strength
- Reduces body fat
- Boosts mood
- Sparks creativity
- Supports cardiometabolic and cognitive health
Based on the laundry-list of benefits that exercise imparts, it comes as little surprise that it is a key part of maintaining weight loss results. But, you may wonder if there is a best time of day to workout for weight loss/maintenance.
That’s exactly what a recent study sought to determine, and we’re going to discuss the results with you today!
Researchers analyzed data from over 5,000 individuals to understand the effect of “the diurnal pattern” of moderate-to-vigorous exercise on the association between rigorous exercise and obesity.
Basically, the researchers wanted to see if the time of day an individual exercised significantly impacted their ability to lose/maintain weight.
After analyzing all of the data, researchers discovered that individuals who exercised in the morning had a lower body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference.
Specifically, morning exercisers had an average BMI of 27.4 compared to individuals who worked out in the afternoon (28.4) and evening (28.2). Note: “Healthy” BMI is 18.5-24.9. “Unhealthy” BMI is 25.0-29.9. “Obese” is a BMI greater than 30.0.
Similar findings were noted for waist circumference -- morning exercisers had an average waist was 37.7 inches, compared to 38.5 inches for the afternoon exercises, and 38.3 inches for the evening exercisers.
What’s even more interesting is that people exercising in the morning were healthier even when they did less physical activity overall than individuals who worked out in the afternoon and evening.
Based on their findings, the authors’ concluded that:
“...morning exercise could be an important factor in preventing obesity and having a “positive impact” on people who might otherwise be sedentary during the rest of the day.”
While “early morning exercise linked with lower BMI” makes for a great deadline, if you look at the actual differences in waist circumference and body mass index, you’ll see there is not that big of a difference (BMI 27.4 vs 28.2, morning vs evening exercisers).
All groups are still in the “unhealthy” BMI category, with the afternoon exercisers being the most unhealthy, on average.
What this means is that just because you exercise first thing in the morning doesn’t automatically mean that you will be lean, fit, and healthy.
However, there are several reasons why exercising first thing in the morning may help you to live a healthier lifestyle and be in better overall shape.
For starters, exercising first thing in the morning means you greatly reduce the chance that something will “pop up” and force you to delay or cancel your workout. This can keep you on track with your training program and bring you closer each day to your fitness and physique goals.
Morning exercise also improves cognitive function, mood, alertness, and concentration by stimulating the release of various neurotransmitters, catecholamines, and endorphins. This can help you to be more active/productive during the day, and thus burn more overall daily calories.
Another factor at play could be circadian rhythm which significantly impacts hormone levels and overall metabolism. Exercising earlier in the morning could have a greater overall beneficial impact on the myriad hormones that affect glucose metabolism, nutrient partitioning, fat burning, muscle building, etc. as opposed to evening exercise. However, more research needs to be conducted for researchers to fully understand why early morning exercisers tend to have lower body weights, based on this study.
Early morning exercise may be associated with lower body weights and better cardiometabolic health, based on this study.
What’s more important than the time of day you exercise is that you actually work out.
If you work the night shift, and your only option is to exercise right before work, then that’s when you should exercise.
If you find that you are able to push harder during afternoon/evening workouts as opposed to first thing in the morning, then you will ultimately be able to lift more weight for more reps, burn more calories, and build greater strength.
In other words, focus on getting your workouts in each day, and worry less about the exact time of your workouts.
Being consistent with your fitness, supplementation regimen, nutrition plan, etc. will have a considerably greater impact on your health, fitness and physique than stressing about the “perfect” or “optimal” time to do things.
Remember, we’re always here to help you -- whether that’s answering questions about your diet, training, or supplementation or sorting through the endless waves of hyperbole and misinformation that plagues the fitness industry.
When you sign up for the 1UP Fitness App, you’ll gain access to our exclusive Facebook group where you’ll be able to ask questions, receive encouragement, and interact with other goal-oriented individuals to stay on track with your goals and get the results you want!
- Ma, T, Bennett, T, Lee, C-D, Wicklow, M. The diurnal pattern of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and obesity: a cross-sectional analysis. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2023; 31(10): 2638-2647. doi:10.1002/oby.23851