For men, night training is most beneficial. For women, the answer varies depending on whether the goal is to burn fat or build muscle.
There is no wrong time to exercise, but there may be times that are better than others.
The best time of day to exercise may depend on your gender and even whether you’re looking to burn fat or build strength, according to a helpful new study on men, women and when to exercise.
For women, morning workouts were found to shed belly fat and improve blood pressure better than late-night workouts. For men, evening exercise leads to more fat burning and better blood pressure control. Evening exercise also enhanced the benefits of strength training, but to a greater extent for women.
Exercise timing research is part of the burgeoning science of chronobiology, which focuses on how our internal clocks influence nearly every aspect of our physiology.
The human body, like other mammals, plants, reptiles and insects, operates on an innate 24-hour circadian rhythm, with a master clock system in our brains that sends and receives biochemical signals that coordinate with the molecular clocks inside our cells. to manage an amazing symphony of biological processes.
This rhythm in turn responds to signals from the outside world, especially daylight and darkness, but also when we eat, sleep and exercise.
In recent mouse studies, large groups of rodents were made to run on wheels for exercise at different times of the day. Studies show that animals’ heart rate, fat burning, gene expression and body weight change significantly depending on when they exercise, even though the exercise itself is the same.
However, human studies on exercise timing are more conflicting. Some show that people burn more fat and lose more weight by exercising early, especially before breakfast, while others suggest that we get greater health benefits from afternoon or evening workouts.
But most of these studies were small and included only men with metabolic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or obesity. Consequently, we know little about the optimal time for exercise in healthy men and even less about the best time for women. That’s why the new study is so important.
The study, published in May in Frontiers in Physiologyis designed to reflect real-world demographics, said Paul Arciero, director of Skidmore College Human Nutrition, Performance and Metabolism Laboratoryin Saratoga Springs, New York, and lead author of the study.
All volunteers identified as male or female, and more than half of the 56 participants were female. In addition, they were all healthy and physically active, but not athletes.
The researchers tested the health, strength and fitness of the volunteers, then randomly divided them into two groups of equal numbers of men and women. One group was asked to exercise four times a week, in the morning between 6 and 8 am. The other group was instructed to exercise in the afternoon between 6:30 and 8:30 in the evening.
Each group participated in identical training. Once a week they lifted weights. The next day, they did about 35 minutes of interval training (running, swimming or cycling as hard as possible for one minute, resting and repeating). Another day they practiced yoga or pilates. They ended the week with an hour of running, cycling or other aerobic exercise.
The groups maintained this routine for 12 weeks and then returned to the laboratory for retesting.
All study participants were leaner, faster, stronger, stronger, more flexible and fitter, regardless of whether they exercised early or late.
But there were relevant differences between the groups based on the time of day they exercised. Here’s what the researchers found:
For women, fat is burned best in the morning. Women who exercise early lose an average of about 3 percent more body fat than those who exercise at night, with much of the loss coming from their waists. Women who exercised in the morning lost 7 percent more belly fat than those who exercised in the afternoon. (None of the volunteers’ total body weight decreased because they gained muscle while losing fat.)
Blood pressure in women who exercised in the morning dropped significantly more than in women who did the same exercise in the afternoon.
Meanwhile, the women’s evening exercise boosted their strength development. Overall, those who exercised in the afternoon improved their upper body strength by 7 percent more than the morning group, and also did more sit-ups and push-ups.
For men, evening exercise is a definite health winner. Those who exercised at night significantly lowered their cholesterol levels, while those who exercised in the morning surprisingly slightly raised theirs. Evening exercise also boosted fat burning in men. At the end of the study, the bodies of the men who exercised in the afternoon burned about 28 percent more fat during their workouts than at the beginning, a change that could lead to a loss of body fat. Fat burning in the morning group increased only slightly.
However, any time is the right time for men to increase their strength and fitness. Among men, those who exercised in the morning and in the afternoon increased their bench press and leg raises, sit-ups, push-ups, and other strength tests to the same extent, both early and late.
What these results mean in practice is that women with specific health or fitness goals may want to time their workouts precisely, Arciero said. If you’re a woman hoping to lose inches around your midsection, consider working out in the morning. If your goal is to build strength, evening workouts may be more effective.
For men, exercising early or late appears to be comparable for strength and fitness, but exercising late at night may have special health benefits, Arciero said.
Still, “we’re not yet able to offer individualized prescriptions for the optimal time of day to exercise,” says John Hawley, director of the Exercise and Nutrition Research Program at the Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, who has extensively studied metabolism and schedules. for exercise but did not participate in this study.
She noted that the new study did not control for women’s menstrual cycles or track people’s chronotypes — whether they are naturally morning or evening people — factors that could affect responses to exercise. Lunchtime exercise was also not included, nor was it analyzed why men and women respond so differently to exercise time. Arciero suspects hormones and other cellular and genetic effects are involved, and plans to conduct follow-up studies to learn more, he said.
For now, the main takeaway from the research is that timing can determine what we gain from exercise. But whatever the case, we win; therefore, “whatever time of day you choose to exercise is the right time,” Hawley said.
Washington Post – Gretchen Reynolds
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