Should you exercise in the morning, afternoon, or evening?

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I am one of those smug people who get up early, down a cup of coffee, and immediately get active. I hit the gym, run the trails, cycle the path, splash the pool, or whatever tickles my fancy that day. Not necessarily because I think it is the ultimate and optimum time to work out, but rather because I like it. I like how it feels. I like how it sets up my day. I like the boost of energy I get from it.

 

I am also one of those spur-of-the-moment exercisers who will find himself in the middle of the afternoon staring at a blank page (where a blog article or workout plan is supposed to be) and instead of buckling down, suddenly gets up and goes for a walk, rides his bike to the pool, or puts on a yoga video before diving back into work.

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Am I doing myself more harm than good by doing those early morning sessions? Should I stop giving into my afternoon exercise whims and simply get my work done instead? Well, let’s take a closer look.

The Optimum Workout Time

The other day, I got into a brief discus-gument with a friend of mine (who is also a fitness coach) about when exactly is the best time of day to work out. And while I didn’t disagree with his very scientifically backed assessment, I am not one of those people who moves heaven and earth each time a study suggests that I am “doing it all wrong.” In fact, I believe I concluded our conver-greement with the statement, “I think I am doing just fine.”

 

Sure, science says that your body temperature peaks in the afternoon, which means that I might be able to do my hard workouts even harder later in the day. Sure that could theoretically result in me getting a bigger fitness boost from that workout, but you know what else gives me a bigger fitness boost? Getting the actual workout done.

 

And sure, my protein synthesis (the ability to use dietary proteins for muscle repair) also peaks later in the day, which means that I could maximize my body’s ability to recover from that workout, but I also find it easier to recover from workouts when I am not stressed out. Feeling rushed, pressured, or under the gun to get my workout done and get back to work or off to dinner is not my idea of a worthwhile cool-down.

 

That is just me. I am not trying to convince you all to become morning exercisers. On the contrary! If you are able to make afternoon/evening workouts work for you, then that is great. You actually have science on your side. But if you are like me, don’t sweat it.

Exercising in the Afternoon or Evening

As my friend reinforced during our dis-argument, if you are purely exercising to excel at a sport or if you really want to achieve the absolute highest possible intensities during your workout, then the optimal time to exercise is when your body temperature is at its highest and that is in the afternoon or early evening.

 

Our body temperature typically increases throughout the day and peaks in the late afternoon, so the theory is that our muscle strength and cardiovascular endurance also peaks in the late afternoon. There is also the added benefit that in the afternoon our reaction time is the fastest and our heart rate and blood pressure is at its highest. All of this combines to improve athletic performance and also potentially reduce the possibility of getting injured.

 

In addition, research suggests that working out in the evenings can increase your physical capacity, aerobic capacity, and strength output by between 8% – 30%. Sprint capabilities have also been measured as being higher in the afternoon by four to five percent.

You probably know that testosterone is an important hormone for muscle growth and strength, for both men and women. While performing resistance training in the afternoon, your body produces more testosterone than it does during the same workout in the morning. And, the stress hormone known as cortisol, which has been linked to the storage and accumulation of fat and also the wasting of muscle, peaks in the morning and then gradually decreases throughout the day.

 

I take all of this to mean that the next time I miss that early morning swim or hill sprint session, I won’t beat myself up because if I can make it up after my workday is complete, I may even train harder.

 

There are a couple of drawbacks with late-in-the-day workouts. Gyms and fitness centers generally get the most action between 5:00 and 8:00 pm and that can make it difficult to get the machine, weight bench, or class that you really want. Mid-mornings tend to see less traffic. There is usually a bump in gym-goers between 6:00 am and 8:00 am but these exercisers tend to be of the hit-it and run variety. Plus, in my own experience the folks who get out on the trails for their run or ride early in the morning tend to be of the friendlier variety as well. I am met with many “good mornings” at 7:00 am and many more steely gazes at 4:00 pm.

Man and son exercising

Morning Exercise

So, it seems like a slam dunk for the afternoon and evening exercisers. Should we just stop there? Not so fast!

 

If you get out there early, you can do things like increase your post-exercise oxygen deficit and calorie-burning rate for the rest of the day.

If you get out there early and jump-start your metabolism and increase your body’s core temperature early in the day, you can do things like increase your post-exercise oxygen deficit and calorie-burning rate for the rest of the day. The science on this is unclear and torn but many trainers and coaches swear that if you are trying to lose weight, a morning session is going to get you more bang for your crack-of-dawn buck.

 

Interestingly, because exercise can increase your heart rate and your body temperature, if you work out too late in the evening (after 8:00 pm) you have the potential to disrupt sleep. One study showed that working out at 7:00 am, when compared to 1:00 pm or 7:00 pm, could help you sleep better that night.

 

Psychologically speaking, you may be more likely to exercise in the morning, instead of after a hard day of work. At the end of the day, your mind and body are tired and that can lead to things like lowered willpower. At the end of the day, you are also more likely to have other duties to fulfill with family or friends. At that point it really doesn’t matter if you’re able to exercise with higher intensity and larger hormone boosts in the afternoon if you don’t get a chance to do it.

 

Finally, one study that measured the neural response to pictures of food after exercise found that 45 minutes of moderate morning exercise helped to suppress the volunteer’s appetites immediately after working out.

 

Research also showed that people can burn up to 20 percent more body fat exercising on an empty stomach, which is much easier to do in the morning than at any other time of the day. But as the Nutrition Diva pointed out in her article on the best time to exercise: “Exercising on an empty stomach may increase the amount of body fat you burn during exercise. But your body alternately makes and burns body fat all day long, transferring fuel in and out of its various accounts. So, you might burn a bit more fat while you’re exercising on an empty stomach but then burn a bit less fat later in the day. Over the long term, the amount of fat you have in your body depends mostly on how many calories you take in versus how many calories you burn.”

Man with exercise equipment in bedroom

Exercising at Noon

When I worked in an office building that had a gym in the basement, this was a no-brainer for me. Sure, I still usually got up and did some sort of movement first thing in the morning (because that is how I roll) but I saved my heavy lifting for my noon workout. And for some people, lunchtime really is the best time to exercise, especially if you have some co-workers to keep you company and to keep you accountable.

 

I am sure I don’t need to say this but just in case, eat after you work out, not before. If you eat before, not only is it uncomfortable, but the blood that you want to go to your muscles is going to go to to your digestive tract instead. If you need some fuel for the workout, make it a light snack and eat it at least 30-45 minutes before you hit the office gym.

So Is There a ‘Best’ Time to Work Out?

Well, you don’t have to be a scientist to determine the best time for you to exercise. If the best time of day is not immediately apparent to you, simply try working out in the morning, then try noon, then late afternoon or early evening. Give each time a fair shake, though a week or two should be enough to give you an idea of which you enjoy the most and which makes you feel best during and afterward. It should also give you an idea of how that time works with or against your other life commitments.

 

In the end, one of the most important aspects of any fitness regime is consistency. And that goes for time of day as well.

The Consistency of Exercise

A research paper called The effect of training at a specific time of day suggests that the body could actually adapt to regular workout times. Let’s say you hit the weight room every day at 4:00 pm; well then eventually you might start to perform better at 4:00 pm than any other time of day.

 

Another study, called Temporal specificity in adaptations to high-intensity exercise training, says that sticking to a specific workout time can actually result in improvement in things like performance, oxygen consumption, and perceived exhaustion. In fact, the researchers concluded that “Greater improvements can be expected to occur at the time of day at which high-intensity training is regularly performed.”

 

The ultimate combination is an aerobic exercise session in the morning, lasting 30-60 minutes, followed by a more intense HIIT (high intensity interval training), resistance workout, or a very sport-specific session in the late afternoon or evening.

I’m an Exercise Newbie. What’s Right For Me?

If you are still at a point in your fit life where your exercise sessions are pretty hit or miss, scheduling it for pretty much the same time each day will definitely help turn it into a habit. Whether you decide on first thing in the morning, over your lunch hour, after work, or after dinner, it is most important to make it part of your routine. People who are just beginning the fitness journey and try to exercise randomly are much more likely to give up. Leave the random workouts to us experts. 😉

Two final tips before I sign off:

  1. If you choose to work out in the morning, take extra time to warm up those muscles that are likely cold and tight from being asleep for the last few hours.
  2. If you choose to work out in the afternoon, keep them consistent. It might help to treat them as unbreakable appointments on your calendar that will alert you if you try to schedule something at the same time.

This article originally appeared on Quick and Dirty Tips and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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Why you should schedule a ‘self-care Sunday’ every week

 

In the world of personal finance, it’s easy to get caught up with conversations about debt and money, bills and spreadsheets, side hustles and income. We often forget how incredibly important it is to take a step back from all of those things and just focus on ourb own well-being. That’s why I decided to implement self care Sunday. I think it’s important to remind each other (and ourselves) how vital self-care is.

 

 

Ирина Мещерякова/ istockphoto

 

I know, I know.  Everyone is talking about self-care right now. But why? What is this self-care that everyone is talking about, and why is it important?

Self-care is taking time out for you to take care of yourself. In our busy, high-paced, stressed-out lives, we’re always doing something – whether that means working, taking care of someone, running errands, or even hustling. Our lives are incredibly demanding. It’s never-ending!

And that’s why taking a step back to recharge and take care of ourselves is so vital. I know what you’re thinking – that sounds selfish! And yes, we may have been taught to believe that taking a moment for ourselves is selfish, and we often feel guilty for even considering it.

But that just isn’t true.  We can’t take care of others if we are suffering from burnout. Taking time to care for yourself is vital to your family’s wellbeing.

 

shironosov // istockphoto

 

So, that brings us to Self-Care Sunday. Yes, taking care of yourself is so incredibly important that we’re dedicating an entire day to it!

It’s not that you shouldn’t be practicing self-care every day. You absolutely should be when you can. The point of self-care Sunday isn’t to say that’s the only day you can take care of yourself! Instead, it’s saying, “Hey, this is super important. Make sure you remember to do this, at least on this one day and more often if you can.”

 

Halfpoint / istockphoto

 

Instituting a self-care Sunday may seem out of reach to you. I get it – even if you aren’t working (obviously not everyone even has Sundays off!), there’s always a ton of stuff to do. You don’t have to dedicate the entire day to relaxation (though you should if you can!).

You can start with finding just 10 minutes for treating yourself. Give the kids an activity that will keep them occupied – or even institute family self-care time (why not teach them at an early age that taking care of yourself is important?). Let the chores wait. They aren’t going anywhere, anyway. Even the busiest among us can find 10 minutes one day a week to relax.

After you make the 10 minutes a habit, work on expanding it. Take 20 minutes the next week, and see if you can build up an hour. You’ll be amazed at how much better your feel, and how much more you can actually accomplish for your family.

 

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 I know – this is what you’ve been waiting for. What can you do to institute self-care Sundays into your life? And I get that some of us are super busy, so it’s broken down into things you can do if you only have 10 minutes, if you have 30 minutes, and if you have more time for self-care.

Below are some ideas if you only have 10 minutes for self-care.

 

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It’s amazing how refreshing a five-minute walk can be. Simply being outside is enough to give us a tiny little boost and help us recharge. Getting the blood flowing with a bit of exercise is an added bonus.

It doesn’t have to be a long walk. I’ve found that a quick stroll around the block works wonders to get me feeling refreshed and refocused. Give it a try!

 

jacoblund/istockphoto

 

Taking a few minutes to focus on deep breathing is an excellent way to ground yourself. Maybe 10 minutes isn’t quite enough for a full-on mediation session, but taking some time to concentrate on your breathing and take in full, deep breaths will do wonders for your mental health.

Start by closing your eyes and taking a full deep breath in. Slowly exhale completely emptying your lungs. Breathe deeply like this for a few minutes, and I guarantee you will feel at least a tiny bit better.

 

fizkes / istockphoto

 

Another quick way to get some self-care in is to stretch. Stand up and reach for the sky. Then, try to touch your toes. Stretch out your back and your arms. It will give you a tiny boost of energy, and it’s good for the muscles, too!

 

Victoria Gnatiuk / istockphoto

 

Journaling is a great way to let all of your thoughts flow out of you. Sometimes, we don’t even realize that we are holding things in until we start writing them down. And the great thing is that you can do this even with a limited amount of time. It’s an easy way to incorporate a self-care Sunday ritual into your daily life.

 

One great thing to journal about that will help reduce your stress and make you feel better about yourself is gratitude. I like to write down three things I’m thankful for everyday. Taking time to acknowledge the little things that we have going for us does wonders to improve our moods.

 

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While it’s true that you shouldn’t over wash your face (you have to avoid that try skin!), an exfoliating scrub can do wonders to help you freshen your day. Treat yourself to a quick cleanse. Finish off with your favorite moisturizer. Your skin will feel fresher, you will feel reinvigorated, and as a bonus, it will help reduce acne and oily skin.

 

 

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Here are some ideas for if you have 30 minutes for self care.

 

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Obviously, you aren’t going to be able to read a full book in 30 minutes. But that’s more than enough time to pick up a book and read a chapter or two. I have a giant reading list of books that I want to read, and it’s been so difficult for me to find a few spare hours to read them.

But when I realized that I don’t need to read through an entire book in one sitting (rocket science, I know) I miraculously started reading more books. Thirty minutes every day is more than enough to get through a book a week.

 

 

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Thirty minutes is definitely enough time for a productive meditation session. When you’re mediating for self-care, it’s best to focus on Zen meditation. This method of meditating is all about clearing your mind and letting go of all your stress and worries.

Spotify has some great options for Zen meditation, but you can also buy some digital downloads on Amazon. Just 15-30 minutes of mediation can do wonders to improve your mood and increase your mindfulness.

 

 

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Exercise is one of the best things you can do for self-care. I know: It’s hard and it hurts, but it has tons of benefits. The most obvious one is the physical health benefits – burning calories, weight loss, healthy heart, all that jazz. But it has immense mental benefits as well. Working out releases endorphins, feel good hormones that will help your mental state throughout the day.

As an added bonus, exercise is also great for skin-care. Sweating helps wash out those impurities, and keeps your skin glowing and refreshed! It’s part of what keeps my skin so healthy looking!

 

istockphoto/Drazen Zigic

 

There’s a reason adult coloring books are all the rage. Coloring is a great way to tune out the world and focus on something non-consequential. It may seem mundane, but you’re really giving your brain a break from all the stress and worry.

I have a Buffy the Vampire Slayer adult coloring book, and I love it. I pull that bad boy out whenever I’ve had a rough day, and after about 20 minutes of coloring, the anxiety just melts away.

 

 

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Try out these ideas when you have some extra time for yourself.

 

Credit: AntonioGuillem / istockphoto

 

A bubble bath is the quintessential self-care Sunday idea. The luxurious appeal of a warm, fragrant bubble bath can’t be overstated. It’s indulgent, relaxing, soothing and the perfect way to unwind after a long week.

It takes me nearly 15 minutes to draw a bath to my liking, and then I want to soak for at least 15 minutes, if not more. It’s my favorite way to pamper myself after a truly stressful week. I also like to play calming music, light scented candles (Chamomile is one of my favorite bath time scents) and treat my skin to luxurious scrubs.

 

Halfpoint / istockphoto

 

Hiking is so much better than walks around your neighborhood or jogs. It combines the getting outside and exercising portion of both of those with being out in nature! How can you beat that?

Hiking is honestly my favorite thing to do for self care. But it’s been hard to do lately because it’s been cold and rainy outside. Some people enjoy hikes in the cold, but I’d much rather be comfortable.

But when it’s nicer out, hiking is the absolute best self care activity. Physical activity is always good for the body, and being outside in nature is does wonders for your emotional health. A walk through the woods has a way of making us slow down and appreciate the majesty of the world that we live in. Sometimes that is all we need for a boost.

 

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Yes, self-care can mean watching TV. It can mean indulging in a movie or tv show that you actually want to see, or something that’s just mindless entertainment. Sometimes self-care means taking the opportunity to check out, if only for a few hours.

My favorite way to unwind and destress is with my good old trust Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I can rewatch my favorite show over and over again, and it never gets old.

Also, there’s an episode for every mood. If I want to laugh, I turn on Intervention. If I want to cry, I’ll opt for Passion (or Homecoming, if I want happy tears). Sometimes, falling into a fictional world is a great release from everything we have going on in this world.

 

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There are thousands of self-care activities out there. It doesn’t matter which one (or ones!) that you pick, what matters is that you make time for yourself. Let go of your responsibilities and nurture yourself, if only for a few minutes.

 

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Self-care isn’t limited to Sundays. There are more things you can do, throughout the week, to take care of you. Start by eating a healthy diet and getting enough sleep. It’s amazing how much taking care of our bodies in these little ways improves our wellness.

Next, learn the art of saying no. I understand, that can create immense feelings of guilt, but you don’t have to be everything to everyone all the time. Stay home alone and treat yourself instead of saying yes to everything.

Finally, start listening to your body. It will tell you when you’re exhausted, when you need more me-time, and when you’re ready to seize the day. Take care of it, and it will take care of you back for years to come.

 

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The final thing I want to leave you with is this: Self-care isn’t selfish. Life is stressful and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. It’s not selfish to look after yourself (and if it is – it’s OK to be selfish every now and again!)

Caring for others is a full time job, and you deserve time to take care of yourself while you do it. Caring for yourself is a great way to reduce stress and ensure that you are ready to face whatever the world may throw at you.

This article
originally appeared on 
PartnersInFire.comand was
syndicated by
MediaFeed.org.

 

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