There’s no question that exercise is essential for bone health and so much more. But is there a way to optimize your workouts, specifically by selecting a time to exercise, such as morning or afternoon?
Some studies show that to get the most out of your workout you should exercise in the morning, while other research concludes that an afternoon or evening routine is more effective. So what’s the best time to schedule your exercise?
In today’s post we’re going to answer this question and more, as we explore the scientifically-backed evidence.
Finding The Time To Exercise
Despite its undeniable importance both for bone health and overall health, with today’s busy schedules, more often than not exercise ends up on the back burner. The matter gets more complicated if you’re trying to fit exercise in at a particular time of day. “Finding the time” suddenly takes on new meaning as you try to find the best time to work out.
Let’s take a look at what the research says about the timing of your workout.
Pros Of Morning Workouts
The evidence points to some advantages to working out in the morning.
Evening workouts may disrupt sleep, as some research suggests that sleep is actually enhanced by morning exercise routines. To study this, scientists looked at dips in blood pressure and how aerobic exercise and sleep quality influence these dips.
After evaluating twenty study participants, researchers found that morning exercise produced a “greater dip in nocturnal systolic BP than exercise at [1pm] or [7pm]…Compared to [1pm], [7am] also invoked greater time spent in deep sleep.”1
This led them to conclude that:
“…early morning may be the most beneficial time to engage in aerobic exercise to enhance nocturnal BP changes and quality of sleep.”1
This is particularly relevant with regards to bone health, since sleep is paramount for healthful bone remodeling.
Blood Sugar Stabilization
Blood sugar is an important though often overlooked aspect of bone health. Fluctuating blood sugar levels can damage your bones in a variety of ways, such as promoting the formation of AGEs (Advanced Glycation End products), stressing the kidneys, stimulating sugar cravings, and depleting vital bone-building minerals like calcium and magnesium.
For diabetics, of course, this topic is of particular concern, so not coincidentally, researchers studied diabetics with respect to exercise time and blood glucose.
The 35 participants in the study were all older than 18 and all had Type I diabetes (DM1). Their blood glucose was monitored continuously throughout the study, and they participated in morning and afternoon exercise sessions. Most “hypoglycemic events occurred 15-24 hours after the session.”2
Researchers concluded that:
“Morning exercise confers a lower risk of late-onset hypoglycemia than afternoon exercise and improves metabolic control on the subsequent day.”2
Basically, morning workouts may prevent dips in blood sugar.
Enhanced Weight Loss
If you’re hoping to shed a few pounds as a result of your exercise routine, then morning may be best for you, especially if you work out before breakfast.
First thing in the morning, you’re in a fasting state. So your body taps into its fat stores to fuel your workout since there are no calories from foods available yet. This was elucidated in a recent study that compared three groups: those that exercised in a fasting state, those that ate carbs before and after exercising, and those that did not exercise at all. They found that the group that exercised while fasting lost weight, while those who ingested carbs prior to and following exercise actually gained weight. Those who did not exercise at all also gained weight.3
You may have heard that exercise works up an appetite, and that may have been your experience; but interestingly, in a recent study scientists found the opposite effect in response to morning exercise.
Morning exercise was found to decrease the appetite of 35 individuals, 18 of whom were normal weight, while 17 were obese. When participants were shown images of food or flowers after exercising, the brain response of both groups of participants was essentially the same, showing that obesity was not really a factor in how appetizing the food appeared after exercise. The total physical activity during the day following the morning of exercise was also the same in both groups.
In addition, one week later the same participants were shown food or flower images at the same time of day, but without exercise. Their brains’ response to food images was greater in both groups when they did not exercise.4
The researchers “wanted to see if obesity influenced food motivation, but it didn’t,” said researcher James LeCheminant.
Those who exercise in the morning tend to be more consistent, according to the American Council on Exercise. This could be due to fewer distractions in the morning – by the time noon rolls around, the day is well underway and unexpected distractions and activities are more likely to cut into your exercise time.
Also, by afternoon or evening, a stressful work day may tire you out and negatively influence your motivation to exercise. After all, in the morning you tend to feel “fresher” and readier to go, especially after a good night’s sleep.
Pros Of Afternoon And Evening Workouts
If you’re not a morning person, don’t despair – there’s also evidence that later-day workouts have advantages.
Your body’s core temperature influences exercise quality and potential for injury. If you’re cold and stiff, as is often the case first thing in the morning, then your muscles are less flexible and are more prone to sprains and strains. Your joints, too, are warmed up and less prone to injury in the afternoon.
Your body temperature actually follows a rhythm in conjunction with your sleep cycle, and it peaks in the late afternoon. According to research:
“…the diurnal increase in temperature is believed to have a passive warm-up effect improving muscle contractility, and in turn, muscle force, power and performance.”5
So you may get more out of your workout if you do it in the late afternoon, including more effective bone-building.
Hormones and body rhythms are cyclic in nature, and those cycles affect exercise performance and ability. Some intriguing new research explores this.
Forty healthy men, aged 20 to 30, were divided into five groups. The first four groups engaged in vigorous exercise in the morning, afternoon, evening, or at night, with each group exercising at the same time of day for their group. Blood samples showed an increase in the hormones cortisol and thyrotropin in the evening and nighttime exercisers, along with a decrease in blood glucose levels.6
Lead researcher Dr. Orfeu Buxton notes that the “variations in the hormone levels are quite large” depending on the time of day that participants exercised.6
These hormones matter significantly with regard to your bone health – thyrotropin, for example, stimulates the thyroid, and fascinating research shows that osteoblasts (the cells that build bone) actually communicate with thyroid hormone. So exercising later in the day may give you a hormonal advantage.
One of the best benefits of working out later in the day is that it provides a chance for you to get over the stresses of the day. Some people are eager to get to the gym or outdoors to walk at the end of a stressful day. Stress reduction is a key component to reversing bone loss and increasing bone strength, because stress acidifies the body and damages bone, and can cause a host of other unpleasant health issues.
The stress relief you experience with a late afternoon or evening workout not only helps your bones, but can increase motivation significantly…and staying motivated is key, as you’ll soon read.
A workout may be just the thing to boost energy levels and get over the afternoon “slump” that can often hit after lunch, especially after a large meal.
An afternoon workout can help you get over that hump and give you the energy you need to get through the rest of the day.
Putting It All Together
So with pros and cons on both sides of the aisle, what is the answer? Is it best for your bones if you exercise in the morning, afternoon, or evening?
As you determine what time of day will give you the most effective, bone-building workout, there are some individual considerations that are not on the above list. The most important of these “unofficial” considerations is what time of day will work best for you.
The fact is that individual variations in schedule, energy level, and simply personal preference all come in to play. For example, if your schedule is such that you’d have to get up unreasonably early to work out, then the benefits will be undercut: not only will you be more sluggish and unresponsive to your workout, but you’ll likely lose motivation if it’s that much of a challenge. The same is true if afternoon or evening times present insurmountable challenges for you. So choosing a time that works for you is essential.
The Best Time Of Day For Exercise Is The Time You Can Commit To
As mentioned above, individual temperament, schedule, and overall preference are always important factors to consider when you recognize that, according to research, exercise frequency is paramount. If working out in the evenings (or mornings) means that you can only exercise once a week, then you’re not getting the full bone-strengthening benefits of exercise.
Yet another study sums this up. Concerned about the “low sports participation rates” among older adults, researchers set out to determine how exercise frequency impacts bone mineral density and the potential for an optimal exercise “dosage” for building bone.
Fifty-five post-menopausal females with osteopenia participated in the study, and the bone mineral density of their lumbar spine and pelvis were evaluated. The participants were followed for 16 years, and researchers determined that the “minimum effective dose” of exercise was two to three times a week.7
“This result might not be generalizable across all exercise types, protocols and cohorts, but it does indicate at least that even when applying high impact/high intensity programs, exercise frequency and its maintenance play a key role in bone adaptation.”7 [emphasis mine]
In sum, how often you exercise is more important than what time of day you exercise.
So for optimal bone health, choose a time that works for you and that you can stick with.
This is yet another way in which the Densercise™ Epidensity Training System is perfectly suited for building bone through the stimulation of targeted exercise. Densercise™ is completely customizable when it comes to time of day; the moves do not require special equipment or a specific location, so you can “Densercise™” at whatever time and place work for you.
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Densercise™ is designed to be practiced three times a week, which is the optimal “dosage” for increasing bone density according to research. So choose a time you can stick with and get started!
What’s your favorite time to exercise? Are you a morning person, or prefer the afternoons or evenings? Please share with the community by leaving a comment below.
1 Fairbrother, K., Cartner, B., Alley, J., et al. “Effects of exercise timing on sleep architecture and nocturnal blood pressure in prehypertensives.” Vascular Health and Risk Management. 10. 69. (2014): 691-698. Web. July 22, 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4270305/
2 Gomez, Ana Maria, et al. “Effects of Performing Morning Versus Afternoon Exercise on Glycemic Control and Hypoglycemia Frequency in Type 1 Diabetes Patients on Sensor-Augmented Insulin Pump Therapy.” JDST. 9. 3. (2015): 619-624. Web. July 22, 2016. https://dst.sagepub.com/content/9/3/619.abstract
3 Van Proeyen, K., et al. “Training in the fasted state improves glucose tolerance during fat-rich diet.” J Physiol. 588. 21. (2010): 4289-302. Web. July 22, 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20837645
4 Hanlon, B., et al. “Neural response to picture of food after exercise in normal-weight and obese women.” Med Sci Sports Exerc. 44. 10. (2012): 1864-70. Web. July 22, 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22617393
5 Racinais, S. “Different effects of heat exposure upon exercise performance in the morning and afternoon.” Scand J Med Sci Sports. 20. 3. (2010): 80-9. Web. July 22, 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21029194
6 Buxton, O.M., et al. “Exercise elicits phase shifts and acute alterations of melatonin that vary with circadian phase.” Am J Physiol Requl Integr Comp Physiol. 284. 3. (2003): R714-24. Web. July 22, 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12571075
7 Kemmler, W. von Stengel, S., and Kohl, M. “Exercise frequency and bone mineral density development in exercising postmenopausal osteopenic women. Is there a critical dose of exercise for affecting bone? Results of the Erlangen Fitness and Osteoporosis Prevention Study.” Bone. 89. (2016): 1-6. Web. July 22, 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27108341