Could the time of day we decide to work out really have an impact on the length of our lives?
Well, according to research, yes, it could.
While previous studies have suggested that physical activity in the morning could have health benefits, such as increased fat metabolism, night owls will be pleased to hear that an early morning workout isn’t essential.
In fact, an afternoon workout could be best.
This latest research found that having an afternoon workout may maximise health benefits and reduce the risk of premature death more than a morning or evening workout.
But, don’t panic.
If you are more of a morning person, the study did highlight that any physical activity carried out, no matter the time of day, is better than not exercising and can still be seen to lower risks of mortality and illnesses.
While information regarding the best time of day for a workout is ever-growing and can seem quite contradictory and inconclusive, the studies carried out in the past were small, with generally inconsistent results.
However, this recent study, published in Nature Communications, aims to squash any doubts on sample size by analysing more than 90,000 men and women who had joined the UK Biobank, a health study of adults.
Volunteers participating in the research were given an activity tracker to wear for a week.
Using the results, the researchers divided the volunteers into groups depending on when and how often they moved.
They checked this against mortality records for up to seven years after people joined Biobank and then looked to spot any patterns.
The most obvious outcome was that people who frequently engaged in moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA) lived longer than people who did barely any exercise.
The surprise came when they uncovered links between afternoon workouts and living a longer life.
People who engaged in physical activity between 11am to 5pm were less likely to die from heart disease than people who exercised outside of this time bracket.
This time of day also happens to coincide with the time of day that people are statistically less likely to have a heart attack.
‘Studies have also shown that physical performance is at its peak during the late afternoon, meaning you may be able to work out harder and longer, which can lead to better results,’ fitness expert and PT Ben Dillon tells Metro.co.uk.
‘Afternoon workouts can help reduce stress levels, ease tension, and promote relaxation, which may aid in recovery post-workout.’
But this doesn’t mean morning and evening workouts are no-good.
Benefits of morning exercise
On the other hand, a morning workout can help to reduce body mass.
A study in mice conducted by researchers at the Karolinska Institutet and the University of Copenhagen found that morning exercise increases fat metabolism.
Other research has shown that morning fitness also reduces blood pressure.
‘Many people find that exercising in the morning helps them kick start their day,’ Ben explains.
‘Morning workouts help boost energy and increase mental alertness, making it easier to tackle the day’s tasks.’
Benefits of evening exercise
If the only time of day you can fit in a workout is after working hours, then don’t panic.
‘Evening workouts are ideal for those who want to burn off some steam after a long day,’ says Ben.
‘They are an excellent way to reduce stress and anxiety, which can be built up over the course of a busy day.’
And if your goal is to build muscle, then studies have found that you are better off opting for an evening workout anyway.
How to pick the best time
Ultimately it’s up to you.
Remember that some physical activity is better than no physical activity, so don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t able to fit a workout into a specific idealised time each day.
Ben adds: ‘The best time of day to workout is the time that works best for you and your schedule, and that allows you to be consistent and committed to your workout routine.
‘Whether you prefer mornings, afternoons or evenings, consistent exercise is the key to achieving your fitness goals.’
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