Our decision and resolve to work out regularly are often marred by the paucity of time. It’s common to hear “I want to include exercise in my routine, but I just don’t have the time” or “Only if the day had 30 hours!” or “If only I had a babysitter at home”. With a busy schedule and multiple roles that we play, it’s hard to find the time to exercise. Between juggling a career, an active social life, kids and pursuing hobbies, making time for workout takes a backseat.
Until and unless the cosmos changes its routine of rotation, the day will continue to have 24 hours, and we need to give our best in these 24 hours! Our roles and responsibilities will possibly be the same for years and the external factors hindering our efforts would change, but nevertheless, continue to exist.
So how do we include exercise in our daily schedule? Well, the answer is to take it one day at a time. Enjoy the activity, internalize the process and have realistic expectations.
However, we can optimize the outcome of the exercise that we do by taking into certain things, such as being mindful of the nutritional requirements of the body, adequate sleep, effective management of stress and a positive outlook towards self among others. Another important factor that we often miss out, or neglect or have little idea about is the time of day that we choose to exercise in. It would help to know that when it comes to hitting the gym or going for a jog or walk, exercising at certain times can help maximize our health goals. So instead of exercising as per convenience, exercising at the most appropriate time is a smarter way.
So, what’s the best time of the day to exercise? Different strokes for different folks, but let me put things into perspective for you.
Personally, I am a morning person, so much so that on days that I miss my morning workout (which is rare), I convert the day into my rest and recovery day! There are many advantages of working out in the morning, especially doing anaerobic exercise i.e strength training (You may find this interesting Cardio Vs Weight Training: Which is Better?). First of all, your workout is done even before the day has actually started for many. Additionally, the gym/park is less crowded in the wee hours. Most importantly my evenings are free for personal work, attending to housework, helping kids with schoolwork, catching up with friends and retiring to bed early.
My choice of time for exercising is personal to me and fits my schedule well keeping in view my engagements – a full-time job, raising a set of twins, housework and a blog – to manage through the day. (Know more about my journey from being fat to fit)
Let us look at some scientific reasons which indicate that mornings are a better time to exercise compared to afternoons or evenings.
- Higher metabolism: Our body burns calories for up to 36 hours after a workout. Which means if we eat food after exercising early in the morning the food is used to replenish the energy needs of the body and is used up immediately instead of being stored as fat or being used as an immediate source of energy. This results in a higher metabolism. When you exercise early in the morning your body uses stored fat as fuel, while if you exercise later in the day the body uses the food that you have already consumed through the day as fuel.
- Endorphin surge: Exercise stimulates endorphin production in our bodies. Endorphins are the body’s natural “feel-good” chemicals that generate feelings of happiness and euphoria, that lasts through the day. Have you ever heard of “Runner’s high”, the feeling of ecstasy that runner’s get after a satisfying run? Well, that’s because of endorphins! When you exercise in the morning, the rest of the day is generally more satisfying, productive, organized and you are less likely to be irritable and angry.
- Improved cognitive abilities: Morning exercise does what caffeine does to the body – kick starts. Research shows that an active morning routine improves focus and mental abilities. When you exercise in the morning, the body gets ample oxygen that helps to circulate nutrient-rich blood efficiently. It also gets the heart rate up which enhances neurogenesis—growth new brain cells.
- Regular sleep patterns: Waking up early in the morning to exercise leads the body to experience a healthy sense of fatigue at the end of the day and what follows a is an instant, deep and peaceful sleep. Morning exercise improves the length of sleep along with promoting deeper sleep cycles. According to a study reported in the “European Journal of Applied Physiology” exercising in the morning induces higher Melatonin— a hormone produced by the pineal gland that supports regular sleeping patterns. On the contrary, when you workout in the evening the body reacts to the stress by releasing the hormone adrenaline, which prevents you from sleeping well.
- Lower appetite: Many people hold the notion that exercise makes us hungry and hence leads us to eat more. However, it’s not true. We eat more not because we are hungry but because we believe we have created the required calorie deficit by working out and can fill that deficit with food, in the process often eating larger portions and unhealthy food. According to a study at Brigham Young University, a 30-45 minute of moderate-to-vigorous morning exercise lowers the levels of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates appetite while raising levels of peptide YY, a hormone that suppresses appetite. Regular exercise coupled with nutritional awareness helps restore sensitivity to brain neurons that control satiety in the long run.
Well, having stated the benefits of exercising in the morning does not indicate that an evening workout is no good. Whilst morning workouts may have more benefits, choosing the time of exercise really depends on your convenience and schedule for the day. For many, the evening is the best time that they find for exercising and this works perfectly for them.
Keeping aside the research and debate on whether a morning working is better or an evening one, what matters most is making time for exercising, no matter what time of day. Being consistent, and committed will lead you to your fitness goals. But at least now you are hopefully better informed as to which time of day may be best for what you are trying to achieve, be it banishing the fat, toning up, or just for general health and fitness.
Nothing changes IF nothing changes!
So the next time you fiddle with the phone, check emails, switch on the TV or snooze the alarm for the umpteenth time in the morning give it a thought. Maybe you can do better. Put on your shoes, sip coffee and go out for a run/walk or hit the gym.