Why You Should Exercise in the Morning

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  • Why is the timing of exercise important?
  • Factors to remember while choosing an optimal time for exercise

According to scientific literature, exercising in the morning is more beneficial than exercising at night. The better outcome is associated with improved management of metabolic pathways and energy homeostasis.

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Why is the timing of exercise important?

Food intake, energy metabolism, and systemic energy expenditure collectively play an important role in maintaining energy homeostasis and preventing various metabolic disorders. Since circadian rhythm (24-hour day-light cycle) is a key regulator of energy metabolism, performing exercise in synchronization with circadian rhythm can be an effective way to maximize the health benefits of exercise, as well as to maintain an adequate energy level.

Exercise is known to be a crucial regulator of skeletal muscle metabolism, and the functionality of skeletal muscle is strongly associated with the circadian cycle of the body. It is well-documented that impairment in the skeletal muscle circadian system can lead to serious metabolic consequences. Because exercise is an essential modulator of the skeletal muscle circadian clock, performing exercise at appropriate times can significantly mitigate the adverse effects of sleep deprivation.   

In general, there is a widespread belief that the best time of exercise is early morning. Studies have found that aerobic exercise performed in the morning causes a significantly higher reduction in nocturnal systolic blood pressure as compared to exercise conducted in the afternoon or evening. A morning exercise is also associated with a higher duration of deep sleep at night time.

Regarding the risk of exercise-induced hypoglycemia in diabetic patients, it has been found that exercise in the morning causes significantly lower rate of hypoglycemia and improved metabolic control as compared to the afternoon exercise.  

Regarding skeletal muscle metabolism, it has been found that exercising at the early active phase (around mid-morning) causes maximum cellular oxygen consumption and higher revitalizing effects as compared to exercising at the early rest phase (evening).

Moreover, morning exercise has been found to cause beneficial changes in skeletal muscle metabolism. These changes include increased activation of the glycolytic pathways, higher utilization of carbohydrates, higher utilization of alternative energy sources, increased breakdown of fats and amino acids, and adaptation to systemic energy expenditure. The increased rate of glycolysis and resulting depletion in carbohydrate sources occurs due to exercise-induced activation of hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF 1α). Taken together, it can be said that the time of exercise serves a vital role in maximizing the metabolic benefits of exercise.

Also, studies on mice have found that the exercise capacity varies between the early and late parts of the active phase. This variation is associated with the expression of PER1/2, which is a circadian clock protein. It has also been found that exercise regulates glucose and fat metabolism by inducing the expression of an AMPK activator, ZMP, in a daytime-dependent manner. This indicates that the time of day is a vital determinant of exercise capacity and exercise-induced metabolic changes.    

Factors to remember while choosing an optimal time for exercise

Despite having several health benefits of morning exercise, it is always important to remember that the human body works best under a well-balanced systemic condition. In simple words, our body doesn’t like abrupt changes in physiological processes. For a non-morning person, exercise in the morning may be demotivating, which can ultimately result in fewer health benefits. Thus, the best suitable time for exercise may vary from person to person. The most important thing is to maintain consistency in exercise timing. However, those who have trouble exercising might feel that planning exercise in the morning is an incentive because of the increased expected health benefits.

There are some physical activities that can be performed at any time of the day. These include walking, running, swimming, jogging, biking, aerobics, yoga, boxing, strength training, etc.

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References

  • Gabriel BM. 2019. Circadian rhythms and exercise — re-setting the clock in metabolic disease. Nature Reviews Endocrinology. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41574-018-0150-x
  • Fairbrother K. 2014. Effects of exercise timing on sleep architecture and nocturnal blood pressure in prehypertensives. Vascular Health and Risk Management. https://www.dovepress.com/effects-of-exercise-timing-on-sleep-architecture-and-nocturnal-blood-p-peer-reviewed-article-VHRM
  • Gomez AM. 2015. Effects of Performing Morning Versus Afternoon Exercise on Glycemic Control and Hypoglycemia Frequency in Type 1 Diabetes Patients on Sensor-Augmented Insulin Pump Therapy. Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1932296814566233\
  • Heart. 2016. When is the best time of day to work out? https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/when-is-the-best-time-of-day-to-work-out
  • Ezagouri S. 2019. Physiological and Molecular Dissection of Daily Variance in Exercise Capacity. Cell Metabolism. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31006590?dopt=Abstract
  • UCI School of Medicine. 2019. New UCI-led study defines when is the best time to exercise to get the most rejuvenating results. https://www.som.uci.edu/news_releases/best-time-to-exercise.asp

Further Reading

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Last Updated: Feb 17, 2020

Written by

Dr. Sanchari Sinha Dutta

Dr. Sanchari Sinha Dutta is a science communicator who believes in spreading the power of science in every corner of the world. She has a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) degree and a Master's of Science (M.Sc.) in biology and human physiology. Following her Master's degree, Sanchari went on to study a Ph.D. in human physiology. She has authored more than 10 original research articles, all of which have been published in world renowned international journals.

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