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When is the best time to exercise?

We know the key to good health is aiming for a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity every day. Even a slight increase in activity can make a difference to your health and wellbeing, but what is the best time to exercise?

 

Research tells us that the timing of exercise can have positive effects on performance.

For example, during the evening our reaction time, joint flexibility, muscle strength and power are at their peak.

 

In addition to these, the rating of perceived exertion (which represents how hard a person feels their body is working) is lower during the evening. This means we feel less exerted so we can work much harder and potentially maximise our results. 

 

Early morning movement can improve our focus and mental ability for the rest of the day, and some people also find it helps to start the day fresh and positive. Morning workouts also mean you get your exercise done before other time pressures, such as work or children, interfere.

 

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Research tells us that doing regular exercise helps our body to maintain its circadian rhythm (aka as the body's internal clock) and is associated with better sleep. However, it's important to point out that this link with sleep is only an association. Improved sleep may be a combination of healthy behaviours such as regular exercise with eating well or abstaining from heavy alcohol consumption.

 

Accredited Exercise Physiologist, Kathryn Kirchner says while the timing of exercise may affect  your performance, the ultimate time to exercise is whenever you can.

 

"It's more important that you do exercise, rather than when you do it",  Kathryn says.

 

"Exercise will benefit you regardless of what time of day you do it, but the time can influence how you feel.

 

"Do it when it suits you best, and you'll be more likely to do it consistently."

 

Kathryn says it's best to work with your own body clock's needs.

 

"If you're not a morning person don't set the alarm for 6am. You'll only be disappointed if you sleep in, or feel tired for getting yourself out of your regular routine."

 

Kathryn's tip is don't fight your body clock, rather, find out what works for you and stick to that. If you find that you need to adjust your wakeup or bedtimes to fit exercise in, then do it gradually and slowly.

 

"Try to make slipping into an exercise routine as easy as possible. Consider the location, time of day, type of activity and social setting.  Don't exercise randomly:  have a plan and a goal and stick to it."

 

And Kathryn's most important tip? "Make it enjoyable."