Features June 2015 Issue

When Is the Best Time to Exercise? Whenever You Can

Regular exercise is vital for a healthy heart. And the right time to work out is when it best fits your schedule.

Image: Thinstock

Exercise at any time is beneficial, but a morning workout may help you sleep better at night.

There’s a lot of advice out there about when it’s best to exercise: early morning, before a meal, after a meal, and so on.

But according to Mike Crawford, manager of the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at Cleveland Clinic, there is no right time to exercise. Or rather, there is a right time to work out, but it’s whenever it fits your schedule.

“The best time of the day to exercise is when it naturally fits into your daily routine,” he says. “You will be more successful with long-term adherence.”

Morning vs. evening

Certainly exercising early in the morning has its advantages. It gets your blood pumping and gets you energized for the rest of your day. A morning workout also frees up the rest of your day for work or other activities.

But for some people, evening is the only time it’s convenient to take an exercise class or do other types of workouts. For those individuals, Crawford has some advice.

“Some people find that if they exercise close to bedtime they are unable to fall asleep,” he explains. “This is typically due to a rise in body temperature, muscle and brain stimulation. If later in the day exercise works into your schedule, try for late afternoon or early evening. Allow three to six hours for the exercise effects that impact sleep to wear off.”

You may not have a problem sleeping after an evening workout. A warm shower after exercise may actually help relax you and get you ready for bedtime.

But if you do notice a change in your sleeping habits with a shift to a later workout, look for ways to adjust your schedule. Sleep is crucial to good health, and you don’t want to sacrifice a good night’s sleep for a nighttime workout.

Exercise and meal time

Exercising on an empty stomach isn’t recommended, because your body needs fuel to get through your workout. But it doesn’t need to be a full meal. A snack of a banana with a little peanut butter is fine about an hour before exercising. Crawford says it’s best to wait about 60 to 90 minutes after eating to avoid stomach discomfort. Having protein after a workout helps muscles grow and recover.

“There is some data to suggest improvements in weight control and metabolism if you exercise after eating; however, this is a relative small impact,” Crawford says. “Once again, it is best to fit in the exercise when it naturally fits into your schedule.”

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