What's the Best Time to Exercise?

Morning, noon or night-when it comes to exercise, the right time is whatever time works for you.  That means finding a time that fits into your schedule and that you're likely to stick to.

"It's more a matter of commitment than it is time of day," says Local Fitness Expert, GiGi Teeter.

If you're trying to find a place for fitness in your life, you may want to consider these factors:

  • Setting a schedule can help you stick to your program, says Teeter.  You may even want to write out a full week's worth of exercise "appointments," she says.  This type of scheduling can be especially helpful if you're just getting started with exercise.
  • Research shows that people who exercise in the morning are more likely to make it a habit.  "If you can get your workout in early, there are fewer distractions," says Teeter.
  • Though a schedule can help, it's also important to be flexible.  If your morning plans change for some reason, exercise at the end of the day instead.
  • If your workout routine is wearing you down, or if you don't seem to have much energy at the time of day you're exercising, you may want to consider your circadian rhythms.  These cycles regulate your body temperature, metabolism and blood pressure throughout each day.
  • For most people, muscles are warmer and more flexible in the late afternoon, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE).  This can lead to quicker reaction times, greater strength, more power and lower perceived exertion.
  • If you're training for an upcoming event, such as a race, you may want to try exercising at the same time of day as the upcoming event.
  • Think about when you eat.  If you want to exercise in the middle of the day, don't let breakfast be the last thing you've eaten.  Have a little snack two hours before your workout, suggests Teeter.
  • You probably don't want to exercise right after a meal, either.  Your body sends blood to your digestive tract to help with digestion after a meal.  This leaves less blood to nourish the muscles you use during exercise.
  • If morning exercise works best for you, pay extra attention to warming up and stretching before your workout, says Teeter.  This helps ensure that your body will be ready for action.

If exercise is a new part of your life, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) recommends starting slowly, with about 10 minutes of light exercise or brisk walking every day.  Gradually increase the length and intensity of your workouts.

Your doctor can help you set goals for how often and how hard you exercise.  For many people, 30 to 60 minutes of exercise four to six times a week is enough, according to the AAFP.

If you've been inactive for a long time or if you are pregnant, elderly or have any health problems, check with your doctor before you start an exercise program.

For more information about starting an exercise program, or to learn more about the services offered at GiGi's Fitness Center of CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital, located at 4429 Nelson Road, or GiGi's Downtown, located at 707 Ryan Street, call (337) 474-6601.