We recently wrote a blog about how exercising in the afternoon or evening may help blood sugar more than in the morning. Studies like that can be disturbing for people who like exercising in the morning or for folks who can only work out first thing. You can start to wonder if you’re doing it wrong. But health is complicated. What is good for one aspect of health isn’t true for another.
While exercise later in the day may be best for blood sugar, morning exercise seems best for heart health. According to a new study, people who workout out in the morning are at a lower risk of developing heart disease than those who exercise midday. The study used 86,000 people between the ages of 42 and 78 with an average age of 62. They did not have any heart diseases at the beginning of the study. On average, they were overweight, and 60 percent were women.
The sweet spot was 10 am. Compared to people who worked out at midday, people who worked out at 8 am had an 11 percent lower risk of coronary artery disease. People who worked out at 10 am had a 16 percent lower risk. People who worked out at 10 also had a 17 percent lower risk of stroke.
“It is well established that exercise is good for heart health, and our study now indicates that morning activity seems to be most beneficial,” said co-author Gali Albalak of Leiden Univ. Medical Centre. “The findings were particularly pronounced in women, and applied to both early birds and night owls.”
Participants wore fitness trackers seven days a week from February 2013 to December 2015. They were tracked between six and eight years. During that time, 3,000 developed coronary artery disease and almost 800 had a stroke.
The study was observational. It cannot say that the timing of the exercise was definitely what impacted heart health. It is interesting that the impact was seen in people regardless of sleep patterns. With behavioral timing studies in the past, we always pointed out that people often do things based on when they wake up or their bedtime. But that doesn’t seem to be the case in this study. However, just because sleep patterns might not play a role doesn’t mean there aren’t dozens of other factors to consider. Observational studies are hard to draw conclusions from.
“Our findings add to the evidence on the health benefits of being physically active by suggesting that morning activity, especially the late morning, maybe the most advantageous,” said Prof. Albalak.
What we think is most interesting about this study is how quickly it comes on the heels of the study saying evening workouts are best for blood sugar. They’re unconnected. But it’s a great reminder not to obsess about your behavior too much. Exercise is essential for good health. Exercising during different times of the day impacts your body differently. But, no matter when you do it, you will reap rewards. They might be different from what you expect, but there is no downside. No matter what time of the day you work out, you will be helping yourself, and that’s great! So get moving and work toward a healthier tomorrow.