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HERE’S WHEN YOU SHOULD EXERCISE
Here’s how to find the right time to exercise for you based on your DNA, your work schedule – and science. There is no “wrong” time to exercise, but there are certain things to consider when planning your workout week.
Squeezing in a spin class after work. Sneaking out on your lunch break to make it to the gym. Gearing up in reflective gear to ride your bike home after dark. All of these things are victories in and of themselves – victories that come with the “prize” of better fitness. Getting in a workout – whenever, wherever – is a success.
"No matter when you work out you are getting some benefit," assures Kerry Greer, an expert with EXOS. Still, there are certain things to consider when it comes to planning the "when".
If you ask a scientist, they’ll most likely tell you the “ideal” time to exercise is in the early evening. Studies show that, indeed, things like flexibility, strength, and power are at their peak in those early post-work hours. So, there’s evidence to show you might be able to push harder if you work out when your body temp is at its max – around 5pm.
Still, it’s a personal thing – and depends on your own genetics. If you’re a “morning person” (yes, that’s a real thing!), you may be better off hitting the gym first thing in the day. But you also have to consider the other things going on in your life: Work, family, friends, other obligations… If you have to be at work at 7am, morning workouts may not be realistic regardless of what’s in your DNA.
The real key is creating a routine – and sticking to it. That way, you’ll train your body and perhaps more importantly – your mind – when it’s time to exercise.
If you do have the luxury of working out whenever you like, do a little experimenting on yourself to find out what time of day makes you feel your absolute best. If you don’t have much choice in the matter, skip down to part II.
Part I: Turn yourself into a science experiment
To find out what time will work best for you, conduct a test. “Make sure you get in at least a two week cycle of whichever times you would like to try as to give your body the proper amount of time to adapt,” notes Greer. Try pre-work workouts the first two weeks, then lunchtime workouts during weeks three and four, and finally early evening workouts in weeks five and six. Consider a couple things with each test:
- Am I sleeping better?
- Do I have more energy?
- Am I able to be consistent?
Keep a journal and also note how often you missed a planned a workout. Review everything at the end of week six to determine your ideal workout time.
Part II: Find the best time of day to work out – for you
Which statement do you most relate to?
“I struggle to stick to my workout schedule I set for myself.”
Work out in the morning. “Morning workouts may be the best for you, as it makes it harder to push it aside for other things as the day goes on and things get added to your plate,” says Greer.
“I have trouble sleeping at night.”
Work out in the morning or afternoon. “If you exercise too late, it raises your body temperature and heart rate which are two things that will affect your ability to fall asleep,” says Greer.
“I hate morning workouts.”
Work out in the afternoon or early evening. “Right after work or school could be best for you since you have enough time for your body to come down before you go to bed but allows you to work off the stresses of the day,” says Greer.
The bottom line: Don’t sweat it too much. What’s really cool is that your body can adapt to perform better at the time – whatever time – you regularly exercise, according to a study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. In other words, if you keep working out at 7am consistently, it’ll eventually become easier to work out at 7am.
So, like most habits, being consistent even when it’s tough will make it stick. “Building a routine and choosing a time of day where you can consistently exercise is going to get you the best results. We know there are sometimes when you have to adjust for life’s every changing flow but the more consistent you are with exercise, the better.”
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