When is the Best Time of Day to Exercise?
As with other aspects of health and wellness, the most-effective-time-of-day debate can get people hung up on the details. This can cause well-intentioned exercisers, who want the best results, to miss out on the opportunity to implement a structured workout routine into their schedule.
What’s the reality?
The best time of day to exercise is the time that you will consistently do it.
Much like “the best diet is the one that you will stick to,” deciding on a time of day to exercise is a very personal decision, and the indecision can also become an obstacle to actually exercising.
In case you’re wondering, there’s no hard science that one time of day is dramatically better than others. In fact, studies that show gains based on small factors like morning exercise, fasted exercise, or other minor variables show extremely insignificant differences – not transformations of sufficient significance to warrant a shift in schedule.
For most people, there’s only one time of day to exercise that really works, logistically. For many, many people, it’s the morning. The pre-work hours are often consistent and protected, and simply require a little extra willpower to prioritize exercise. For others, noon or night may be better. It is very individual to each person’s schedule!
The best time of day is mostly psychological.
When I work with clients, a huge part of what the client develops is not just better fitness, but a better set of habits to maintain fitness. One of those important habits is securing a time of day that is totally and utterly protected, and making exercise the default activity for that time slot. It doesn’t have to be more than 30 minutes, but it does need to be consistently available at least five days of the week, most of the time. Ideally, that time should be a mix of a few days of cardio and a few days of weight training with a sprinkling of high-intensity intervals, but in reality, any exercise done consistently 4-5 days per week is extremely positive.
Exercising every day at the same time, even if it’s a small dose of activity, has the following logistical/psychological benefits:
- It prevents all-or-nothing thinking.
- It makes exercise a default habit.
- It promotes adherence over a long period of time.
- It short-circuits procrastination.
- It is immune from logistical invasions.
Again, as with other micro-fads in fitness and health, it’s important to remember that consistency, balance, and sustainability always win.
Don’t let coaches or trainers pressure you into feeling that there is only “one right way” or “best way” to get in shape or improve your health – most people who do not work in the fitness industry have one shot per day at getting in a quick exercise session, and you need to be realistic about what works best for you and what you can sustain over the long haul.
In a similar vein:
Exercising consistently > not exercising while trying to figure out the best way to exercise
In other words, hitting the treadmill for a calm 30-minute walk every day for 30 years will yield better results than a wild 30-minute HIIT workout once every two weeks for a few inconsistent months.
My advice? Pick a time that you know consistently works for your schedule, pick an exercise plan, make sure you have everything you need in terms of equipment ASAP, then get to it!
Don’t let logistics and fear-of-missing-out-on-the-best-workout stop you!
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