We need to get 30 minutes of physical activity a day for good
health or up to 60 minutes if we are trying to lose weight, but are
there special benefits to exercising at different times of the day?
Dietitian and Personal Trainer Vicky Bell fills us in.
Morning exercise has long been heralded as the secret to weight
loss, however this may not be the case. In the morning, especially
before breakfast, our energy stores are quite low and we don't have
as much glucose available for our muscles to utilise. This is when
our bodies take advantage of fat stores to power our muscles.
Sounds perfect, right? Maybe not.
Our bodies aren't particularly good at using fat as an energy
source which means our muscles are a bit sluggish when they are
firing on fat alone. This isn't such a big deal if you are going
for a 30 minute walk but if you are planning to do anything more
strenuous or for a longer period you will probably find it harder
and your session will be less effective than if your body was
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Other benefits to a morning workout:
- Once you have done your exercise in the morning, you are done
for the day! If someone invites you out for the afternoon, or if
you have an appointment, you can feel good knowing you've already
done your 30 for the day.
- Morning exercise is cool. With the Queensland summer on its way
the mornings provide a great opportunity to exercise comfortably in
more bearable weather.
- Start the day in a great mood. Exercise is a natural mood
enhancer so exercising first thing in the morning can help you
start your day feeling great.
Exercising in the morning makes for a great start to the day
especially as the weather heats up. If you are planning to do
strenuous exercise or exercising for 60 minutes or more it is a
good idea to have a quick carbohydrate-based snack before you
start. Something like a banana, a muesli bar or just a glass of
milk will help you to exercise more efficiently for longer. This is
especially important if you have diabetes.
Afternoon or Evening Exercise?
Some of us are just not morning people. So why pretend we are
going to bounce out of bed at that early morning alarm and just
accept exercising in the afternoon or evening is a more realistic
Exercising in the evening or afternoon is a great option for
many people. Importantly, our bodies are better fuelled and more
alert later in the day which means we are able to exercise more
effectively and for longer. The main drawback with planning to
exercise later in the day is we risk our exercise plans being
interrupted by unexpected changes to our schedule like a late
meeting or a sick child. We are also more likely to succumb to the
"toos". Like it's too hot or too dark or I'm too tired.
Other benefits to exercising later in the
- You can exercise the day away. Exercise is a great way to clear
your head and lift your mood so is the perfect way to deal with the
stress of a tough day.
- Exercise can help you sleep. Exercise has been shown to improve
sleep, so if you are having trouble getting to sleep at night an
afternoon or early evening walk might make all the difference.
Beware though, late night intensive exercise sometimes has the
- You're more effective. Studies have shown most people exercise
more effectively in the afternoon than the morning. This means
while morning sessions might be more effective at burning fat, an
afternoon session is likely to last longer and you are likely to
work harder, which in the long term will result in more kilojoules
being burnt, including kilojoules from fat.
From the expert:
Overall, it's not that important when you exercise it is just
important you do it! While there are benefits and drawbacks for
both morning and evening exercise, ultimately you need to find a
routine that suits you and your lifestyle and stick to it. If you
can't find time in the morning or evening to complete your full 30
to 60 minutes, try and find time throughout the day to incorporate
some physical activity. This includes going for a walk during your
lunch break or finding a more active way to commute to work.
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