For those who have adopted a lifestyle centred on health and fitness, it’s likely that key to maintaining this is routine. Throw travel and spontaneity into the mix, and suddenly carving out that time to workout gets a little more tricky. But when we have order, we create habits and habits lead to greater consistency when it comes to executing the workout. Not surprisingly, you’ll find the same people pounding the pavement each morning, or those who hit the weight rack in the evenings following work. If you’ve never really given much thought to the time you workout though, science might just have you reconsidering where your workout fits in your daily routine. According to a new study, it appears evening exercise might be the key to improving metabolic health compared to morning workouts.
The study analysed overweight men with high-fat diets and found that those who exercised late int he day tended to see improved benefits that moderated the undesirable health effects of their greasy diet. While it’s important to note that the study didn’t consider those who weren’t overweight and the effect exercise timing had on them, it still serves as an interesting revelation that only adds to the mounting evidence that the time we work out does serve a purpose.
As the New York Times suggests, “All of our tissues contain molecular clocks that coordinate biological systems, prompting our blood sugar to rise and dip throughout the day, along with our hunger, heart rates, body temperature, sleepiness, gene expression, muscle strength, cell division, energy expenditure and other processes.”
While the full workings of these internal clocks remains to be assessed, scientists have come to believe that they serve a profound purpose when it comes to cues delivered both within and outside of our bodies. Aside from synchronising to light and sleep, they also seem to set themselves by meals so that when and what we eat has an impact on our health and metabolism.
Still, the verdict on what time of day is best when it comes to our health remains inconclusive. Some studies suggest morning workouts, before breakfast, are better for fat-burning, while others indicate early exercise actually impairs blood-sugar control and that later workouts are better able to smooth blood-sugar spikes and improve metabolic health. Perhaps the problem lies in the controlled nature of the experiments, as most have focused solely on one type of exercise and focused little on the actual meals being consumed during the experiment, making it difficult to ascertain the effects of exercise timing and not just simply the impact of one’s diet.
The new study however, conducted by scientists at the Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research at Australian Catholic University in Fitzroy, did set out to control one’s diet and training time. 24 sedentary, overweight Aussie men were checked for their aerobic fitness, cholesterol, blood-sugar control and other health aspects, as well as their eating habits. They were then set up with meal deliveries that were made up of about 65 per cent fat, so researchers could see just how exercise timing affects fat metabolism. The scientists divided them into three groups; one exercised every day at 6:30 a.m., another at 6:30 p.m., and the last remained sedentary. The exercise routines for both groups were identical and focused on intense intervals on stationary bikes.
The results showed that as their cholesterol climbed, early-morning exercise did little to mitigate the effects of the fatty diet, with the group showing the same healthy patterns in their blood as the sedentary group. In contrast, the evening exercises had lessened the impacts of the poor diet with lower cholesterol levels after five workouts. While it makes for good reading, it goes without saying that any exercise is better than no exercise – regardless of what time you do it.