Exercise is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle, but fitting a workout into a busy schedule can be a difficult task. So getting the biggest reward for effort is quite important. So, can the “when” of a workout boost results?

Morning workouts are thought to boost metabolism and have less scheduling conflicts. “Some research says exercising first thing in the morning can help you burn more fat,” says Jennifer Daley, an exercise specialist with Saint Francis’ Health Zone.

The theory is that an individual is coming off of several hours with no food and glycogen levels in the muscles and liver are low, which forces the body to use fat reserves, explains Daley.

On the other hand, some experts tout the benefits of an afternoon workout.

“Recent studies suggest that the afternoon may be the ideal time of day,” says Jason Duvall, exercise physiologist at Hillcrest Fitness Center. 

In the afternoon, body temperature is ideal, muscles are at peak strength and the circadian rhythms in the brain are at a peak state, all of which increase exercise performance, says Duvall. 

So with all the conflicting information, is there a right time to work out?

“Ultimately, the best time is what works best for you,” says Duvall. “Everyone is different. We have a different predisposition to how we respond mentally and physically to exercise no matter the time of day.” 

“There is no right time of the day to work out,” agrees Daley. “It just depends on when you can fit it into your schedule.” 

However, Duvall doesn’t recommend exercising too close to bedtime.

“Exercising late in the evening is usually not advisable,” says Duvall. “It most likely would disturb proper sleep patterns.”

So what does matter? Duvall and Daley say consistency.

“It is more important that we work out, than when,” says Duvall. “Consistency is key.”

“Any possible differences in the time would be small compared to being as consistent as possible,” explains Duvall.  “The general benefits of cardiovascular exercise are based on the amount you do on a consistent basis.”

So how do you make exercise a consistent part of your life?

“Make it an appointment on your daily calendar,” advises Daley. “If you don’t plan it or make a spot for it in your day, you will always find something else to take its place.”

And, don’t forget to have fun. “There’s no reason you have to follow the same training schedule all the time,” says Daley. “Be creative. The more you mix up your exercise routine the more benefits you are going to get from it.”

“Some experimenting can be good,” encourages Duvall. “Don’t make it any harder than it has to be.”

You can even play around with the length of your workout. “One continuous session and multiple shorter sessions of at least 10 minutes are both acceptable ways to accumulate the desired amount of daily exercise,” says Daley.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends striving for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise a week, strength training two to three times a week and flexibility exercises most days of the week. 

If this isn’t your regular routine, don’t try to do it all at once. Gradual progression in time, frequency and intensity is best to reduce the risk of injury, and it gives you the best chance of sticking with it. 

“Set realistic goals and expectations,” encourages Duvall. “Set yourself up to succeed.” 

Everyone can benefit from any amount of activity.

“There are so many options when it comes to exercise,” says Daley “Remember you are not being selfish taking the time out for yourself. You are a better person because of it.”

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