Which Is The Best Time To Exercise For Your Bones: Morning, Afternoon, Or Evening?

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.

Better Sleep

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

Appetite Control

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.

Better Compliance

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.

Warmed-Up Muscles

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.

Hormonal Advantage

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.

Stress Relief

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.

Energy Boost

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.

Keep moving!

References:

1Fairbrother, 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. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4270305/
2Gomez, 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. http://dst.sagepub.com/content/9/3/619.abstract
3Van 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. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20837645
4Hanlon, 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. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22617393
5Racinais, 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. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21029194
6Buxton, 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. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12571075
7Kemmler, 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. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27108341

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12 comments. Leave Yours Now →
  1. aaliyah salaam June 27, 2017, 4:06 pm

    I recently received a diagnosis which has given me much concern. I’ve lost 50 pounds
    and much advice has been given. I recently became aware of your Program. My sleep and digestion has become a problem especially indigestion. I am very hesitant to take
    any prescription medications but did take them in past. I’m a Newbie in your Program but I believe it will be helpful. Will Stay in Tuned. Thank You and other Savers.

  2. Wilmer Failla August 26, 2016, 2:59 pm

    Circadian rhythm is governed by the 24-hour pattern of the earth’s rotation. These rhythms influence body functions such as blood pressure , body temperature , hormone levels, and heart rate , all of which play a role in your body’s readiness for exercise. Some people swear by a 6 a.m. jog to get their hearts racing and get them psyched up for the day. Others wouldn’t dream of breaking a sweat before noon, preferring a walk around the neighborhood after dinner. But is any one time of day the best time to exercise ?

  3. Rosetta July 25, 2016, 8:32 pm

    I started walking in the am at 6 am seven days a week, an hour each day for three weeks now. The test results say I have Osteoporsis. I also have insomnia. I am tired in the early evening. It is harder to work out that time now. I want to do the exercises in the bone building book. I was diagnose with osteoporosis in 2015. I will do my best to do more exercises. Thank you for all your help. I want to not have this condition.

  4. JudY DeVries July 25, 2016, 1:06 pm

    Loved all the info you provided.I find that early morning is best as it gets me going for the day.Am retired and finally able to pick a time that works.Have been diagnosed with osteoporosis and will have another scan in a year .Am trying to use some of the info you provide to bring me back to osteopenia .Thanks!

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA July 25, 2016, 3:03 pm

      Glad you’re here, Judy! There is a great deal of free information on this site – enjoy your research. 🙂

  5. mona July 25, 2016, 9:36 am

    I think there is no “one size fits all” with regard to when to exercise. I felt awful exercising in the morning, got nauseated, felt tired the rest of the day. But doing the same exercise in the evening energized and relaxed me and I slept better all night. Other times of the day obviously work best for others. It depends on the individual’s metabolism and biochemistry.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA July 25, 2016, 11:18 am

      Hi Mona,

      Yes, that is quite true. The key is to be aware of your body rhythms and “listen” to what you’re body is telling you. It sounds like you’ve done that for sure!

  6. Maria Duca July 25, 2016, 8:47 am

    My preference for exercising is late afternoon. Since I retired, I find I accomplish much more around the house in the late morning and early afternoon, then I’m ready to go to the gym. A few days ago, by the way, my dexa scan result indicated osteopenia. This after 20 years of osteoporosis diagnosis. I am thrilled and proud about this!

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA July 25, 2016, 3:43 pm

      How inspiring, Maria! Your experience is an excellent example of how effective a regular exercise routine can be for bone strength…a routine that works for you. Thanks for sharing!

    • Joanna Roof July 25, 2016, 3:05 pm

      Maria Duca,
      Would love to know how you achieved this. I have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, having a score of 4 in my spine and 3 in my hips. Need all the help I can get!

      Joanna roof

  7. bonnie July 25, 2016, 7:15 am

    morning is the best time for me to get up and WALK which i aim for every day
    then i do a series of exercises before lunch (including the densersize series with some of the other suggested exercises in the newsletter) on alternating days
    if i exercise before the walking..it takes me some time to warm up
    i have noticed that if i try to exercise and then walk it is okay..but the exercising is not so “easy”
    have never been able to manage getting out in the pm for walking and/or doing exercise
    thanks for all the info you provide us and the exercise suggestions…it keeps the whole thing interesting

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA July 25, 2016, 8:58 am

      You are welcome, Bonnie. I’m glad you’ve found an exercise routine that works for you and your schedule!

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