Researchers have proven again and again that regular exercise can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. No news here.
But can you reap even greater heart health benefits if you select a certain time to lace up your athletic shoes and get moving?
The authors of a large new prospective study discovered that the answer is “yes”…
Study author Gali Albalak of the Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands and her team analyzed data from 86,657 people in the UK Biobank.1 The participants ranged in age from 42 to 78, with 58 percent being women.
All these people were healthy when outfitted with an activity tracker to monitor exercise patterns over a period of one week. Afterward, researchers also monitored their heart status for an average of six years. Approximately 2,900 participants developed heart disease, while about 800 suffered a stroke.
Discovered: The Optimal Time to Exercise…
How did the researchers nail down the exercise sweet spot?
They compared “heart incidents” against exercise timing. Investigators discovered that women who primarily exercised in the “late morning” (8 a.m. to 11 a.m.) faced the lowest risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.
Just how good were these morning exercisers’ numbers?
Up to 35 Percent Lower Risk of Stroke…
Compared with women who opted for exercise later in the day, those who were most active either in the early morning (before 8 a.m.) or late morning (between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m.) experienced a 22 percent to 24 percent lower risk for heart disease.
And the numbers were even better for those who mostly exercised in the late morning, between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. These women saw their relative risk of stroke drop by a significant 35 percent.
What about the guys? While exercise proved beneficial for men’s heart health, there was no extra cardiovascular benefit for morning exercises in the men in the group.
Dr. Albalak says the researchers were confounded by this segment of the findings.
“So, more research is needed,” says Dr. Albalak, “before we can make any recommendations for men or women. However, we see our research as a first step in the right direction.”2
Why Does Timing Matter?
Dr. Albalak theorizes that physical activity, like food intake, is linked to our circadian rhythms. For instance, other research suggests that eating after 8 p.m. can have detrimental effects on our biological clocks.
“First of all, I would like to stress that being physically active or doing some sort of exercise is beneficial at any time of the day.
“We hypothesize that being physically active in the morning is the most appropriate timing to correctly set your clock,” Dr. Albalak explains.
She says most public health guidelines ignore the role of timing altogether. Instead, she says, they focus on “exactly how often, for how long, and at what intensity we should be active” to reap the top heart health perks. With this new research, the criteria should expand.
Dr. Albalak’s team is aware that lots of people, for whatever reason, can’t swing morning exercise. Does that mean that exercise in the evening is not beneficial? Absolutely not! However, if you do have an opportunity to get some steps in first thing in the morning, by all means, go for it.
My morning walks are fantastic for clearing out the cobwebs and starting the day out right. However, physical activity after a stressful day can help blow off some steam and prepare for a calm evening. But no matter what, don’t get derailed by “right” and “wrong” advice about exercise timing or technique. In the end, just get moving, because any exercise is better than no exercise.