One common question I get when discussing physical activity with patients revolves around the time of day they should exercise. Research is now looking to figure out when is the best time to exercise. I’m not going to go into detail about all the types or benefits of exercise, but rest assured that it’s vital to a healthy lifestyle. Should I do it first thing in the morning, after lunch, or in the evening? Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of each and how to be successful in whichever you choose.

Morning exercise has long been touted as the “crème del la crème” of exercising. It has the biggest boost in weight loss as it ramps up the metabolism first thing in the morning. People burn up to 20 percent more body fat when they workout in the morning. Studies have now found that early morning exercise will prime your body to wake up earlier and want to go to bed earlier to ensure you have enough rest. Morning routines are also one of the easiest to keep consistent. One tip for those wanting to pick up the morning routine is to get everything ready the night before. Have your workout clothes and shoes by the door so you can quickly get them on and get going before your sheets call you back for “5 more minutes.”

At my work, afternoon workouts during the lunch break have become more commonplace. Oftentimes, coworkers will head over to the field house or track to do a quick workout to help get them out of the afternoon slump. Afternoon workouts come with the added benefit of not needing to warm up the body as much. Additionally, hormone levels (estrogens and testosterone) typically peak during the afternoon which allow people to get better gains during their workout. The other option is immediately after work. This is a great way to destress from whatever happened that day. Don’t forget to bring an exercise bag with clothes and deodorant to ensure you aren’t exercising in a tie.

Many people are concerned that exercising late in the evening can keep them from falling asleep. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case. As long as you’re not exercising immediately before bed, there’s no strong evidence that evening workouts will interfere with your sleep. In fact, they may actually help it. Evening walks or some light yoga is a great way to prime your metabolism while you sleep and can even improve the quality of your sleep.

As you can see, there are benefits to all three options. Most importantly, research has shown that making exercise part of your daily routine is vital to living a longer, healthier, and happier life. As always, the best form of exercise you can do is simply walking at a brisk pace. Good luck, and if you see me around, let me know what time works best for you. Dr. Victor Sierpina will return next week.

Dr. Samuel Mathis is an assistant professor in UTMB’s Family Medicine Department.

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