When’s the best time of day to exercise?

Spring is here, and what better time to review daily routines and shape up for summer. ‘But when is the best time to exercise and how will I fit it in?’, I hear you cry. By doing just 150 minutes of physical activity a week, could greatly improve your health. The best time depends on a host of factors including what you want to achieve, how much flexibility you have in your day and your natural body clock.

Morning for weightloss
For most people, the best time to exercise is the time that fits most easily into their schedule. A pre-breakfast cardiovascular workout such as a run, swim or cycle ride, is often easier to stick to because there are fewer distractions. It will also burn fat faster than at any other time. By exercising on an empty stomach, you’ll burn three times more calories than at any other time of the day, using up energy from stored fat instead of energy from foods you have just eaten. The metabolism increases naturally, so that the fat burning process continues right through the day.

If the idea of getting up earlier leaves you cold, take heart from research that shows you can ‘teach’ your body to be ready for exercise at this time, and once you start getting results you will be hooked.

Lunchtime get-a-away
If you are not a morning person or family commitments prohibit time out for exercising, you can make a new habit of training at lunchtime. Whether that’s slipping on a pair of shorts and trainers and jogging around the neighbourhood or working out at the nearest gym.

Your body will be more receptive with a higher temperature and increased hormonal levels than first thing in the morning. Gentle exercises like walking, yoga and cycling can induce stress-busting meditative states, while vigorous cardiovascular workouts, speed and weight training can produce natural highs as the pituitary gland releases endorphins. Whichever form of exercise you choose, it will help make you more alert in the afternoon.

Peak performance
By late afternoon the body’s temperature has reached its peak, and medical studies have demonstrated that exercising at this time produces optimum strength and enhanced endurance. You are less prone to injury, more flexible and have faster reaction times.

This is because our bodies follow a daily cycle scientists have termed ‘circadian rhythms’. Research shows that the best time to exercise for most people is 4pm to 5pm, when body temperature is at its highest.

A post-work gym routine helps you switch off from the day and offers access to classes catering to every fitness need and temperament: from pilates to spinning and zumba. You will still burn fat during the workout, although at night your metabolism quickly slows down so the weight loss benefits won’t be as great as a morning workout.

There is no right or wrong when it comes to choosing an exercise time. The most important thing is to choose what’s best for you, and give yourself the chance to reap the physical and psychological rewards.