Tick tock! Time is a precious commodity, and so you want to make the most of it. That having been said, the short answer to the question of when is the best time to exercise is: in the morning, in the late afternoon, and whenever you have time. Although the research on this question is still not definitive, the timing is not as important as the consistency with which you do it, and in that respect, morning wins hands down.
In the morning:
There are huge advantages to getting your exercise in the morning; in my opinion the most important one is that if you do it first thing in the day, it’s difficult–okay, impossible—to put it off because “something more important” has come up. Research supports this advice. Morning exercisers are more likely to stick to it than late-day athletes. And, even though later in the day might be preferable for some reasons (see below) researchers at the University of North Texas found that that people who consistently exercise in the morning “teach” their body to be most ready for exercise at that time of day. When they switched to evening exercise, they didn’t feel as strong.
In addition, science tells us you’re doing yourself a favor if you exercise in the morning. It raises your heart rate and metabolism so you can burn more calories earlier in the day. It jump-starts your day, raising you metabolism early and giving you an energy boost that lasts hours. It improves your mental acuity for hours after. It takes advantage of the cooler temperatures in summer and lower air pollution is lowest in the morning. So: Get up, get out, get moving. You’re done! Hint: go to bed earlier so that getting up to exercise isn’t painful and to make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Then, let me know how you’re energy has improved!
In the Late Afternoon:
But, of course, we’re not all “morning people.” So, if the mornings are not for you, take heart in findings that show that later in the day may be the best time for other reasons. Research also shows that almost all of us are, somewhat physically stronger and have more endurance in the late afternoon. These increase by about 5% and the injury rate also goes down during that time. On the downside, your employer may frown on this time slot; however these pluses might be in operation immediately after work. And you can take advantage of this edge on the weeks, holidays, and on vacations.
Around Lunchtime & Break Time
Before eating lunch, take a brisk 10 to 30 minute walk and sprinkle with some Nancerize moves. You’ll go back to work with a whole new attitude and supply of mental and physical energy. You may even notice that it helps you curb your lunchtime appetite and cravings Another plus is that it might be easy for you to form a lunchtime or break time exercise habit, especially if you go out with one or more co-workers.
Squeeze in short exercise breaks throughout the day. If you don’t have time for a full workout, don’t sweat it. Shorter spurts of exercise, such as 10 minutes of walking spaced throughout the day, offer benefits too. My book, Nancercize! has plenty of short workouts for ideas and inspiration.
More tips: Some people do best if they schedule exercise like any appointment. If there’s a class that you like, or a group that you can join, that’s the best time for you to exercise.