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When is the best time to Exercise?

The following information was taken from the work of Professor Satchin Panda. World Leading researcher in the health benefits of following your bodies natural circadian rhythm.

Exercising in the morning.

Early morning is a great time to get outside and start moving with an aerobic activity. A brisk walk or any outdoor activity in the presence of bright daylight is an excellent way to synchronise the brain clock. Making it a way to beat any form of jetlag or help you recover from sleep deprivation. It is also an important mechanism for maintaining and enhancing brain function. First it will improve your mood for the rest the day also exercise stimulates new brain cell production and your ability to make new neuronal connections for deeper learning and more memory. We also know that exercise helps repair damaged brain cells by improving the neurons ability to repair their own DNA. This damage repair extends to the plaques in the brain that are found in those who have Alzheimer’s.

It doesn’t matter whether you wait until sunrise to start your morning walk run swim or cycle. You can start anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours before or after sunrise. The outdoor light during this time can be as much as 800 to 1000 lux which is an ideal amount of comfortable daylight.

The bright light will activate the blue light sensors in your eyes and as you exercise the senses will fire up your brain. If you exercise in the gym in the morning don’t use the dark is corner of the room. Instead find a spot that is next to a large glass window or under bright light.

As long as you are dressed properly for the weather you can take a morning walk throughout most of the year unless there is a weather adversary. In fact exercising in cold air adds some additional health benefits. Cold activates brown fat or converts white fat to beige fat. Brown fat is rich in mitochondria the energy currency of any cell. More mitochondria mean that fat cells have more capacity to burn off. Additionally body fat is burned to warm up the body during cold air workouts. As a result you can simply burn some fat by being exposed to cold temperature.

A further benefit of exercising outdoors in the early morning is that you naturally raise your cortisol to a healthy level in the morning which will lower your inflammation.

Exercise in late afternoon

Another great time for physical activity is at dusk or in the late afternoon. Starting from 3 pm to dinnertime.

This is when muscle tone begins to rise so it’s the best time for strength training including weightlifting or vigourous exercise like intense indoor cycling. High-intensity athletes and those trying to optimise their physical fitness will find that exercising before dinner followed by a protein rich meal will help them repair muscle, build muscle mass and promote recovery.

The muscles absorb and use nutrients in the late afternoon when repair occurs. The brains function involving motor coordination is typically high during the day which further aids sports performance. Bloodflow and blood pressure are also high in the afternoon which might improve better oxygenation of muscles.

Athletic performance even among competitive athletes can vary by as much as 25% within a day. If you are aiming to get maximum benefit from exercising with minimum injury, afternoon is the best time to exercise. There are numerous studies showing motor coordination and strength peaks around late afternoon. This is further supported by observation from analysis of 25 seasons of Monday Night American Football games dating from 1970 to 1994. When a West Coast team in America travelled to the east coast to play Monday Night Football within 48 hours after flying the West Coast team had a significantly higher chance of beating the east coast team even though the east coast team had the home-field advantage. That is because the east coast team started the game at 9 pm at the tail end of the peak exercise performance window. However the West Coast team are still following their old time zones circadian clock and actually playing at their peak performance time of 6 pm.

The average mortals (majority of us) late afternoon or evening exercise has two practical benefits. Exercise is known to reduce appetite so afternoon exercise and tell me helps burn some calories it can also help reduce hunger at dinnertime so you may eat less. Exercise also helps our muscles take up more glucose in a mechanism that does not depend on insulin. As insulin production and release gradually decline through the evening insulin alone may not be sufficient to prevent a blood glucose levels from shooting up be on the healthy range. As little as 15 minutes of evening exercise will boost our muscles ability to absorb some blood glucose and keep it in a healthy range.

Late night exercise

If you have to exercise late at night try to avoid bright lights so not to delay your sleep time. It is best to do your extreme activity or high-intensity exercise before dinner. Late night exercise in a gym or on a treadmill can increase cortisol to morning levels and delay the nightly rise of melatonin. Intense exercise also raises body temperature and heart rate. All of these factors interfere with your ability to go to sleep. You may be resetting your clock by sending a signal that it is earlier in the day. What’s more if you do very intense exercise at night the brain thinks it is dusk when we are typically more active so it delays melatonin production. This may be a reason why some not all people who exercise late at night also go to bed after midnight. If late night is the only time you can exercise take a shower before bedtime and this can help cool your body down which will help you go to sleep.

So in summary:

Exercise outdoor or in bright light in the morning. Exposure to daylight increases alertness and reduces depression.

On colder days you activate brown fat and increase your fat burning potential.

You naturally raise your cortisol levels and reduce inflammation.

For strength training try exercising between 3 pm and dinner time for the best results.

Late night exercising avoid strength training or high intensity and try not to do this under bright lights.


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