Optimal time of day to exercise appears to be different for men and women

The best time of day to exercise is a long-standing question, and now a new study shows that it varies by gender. The team found that for men, exercising in the evening was more effective than exercising in the morning, while women’s results varied, with different exercise times improving different health outcomes.

There is a lot of scientific work investigating the possible impact of time of day on exercise outcomes, with mixed results. While exercising before bed seems to disrupt sleep, exercising in the morning, afternoon, or evening seems to have its pros and cons, and they may vary depending on the type of exercise and desired results—whether you want it or not. For example, Lose fat or gain strength.

For the new study, researchers at Skidmore College set out to investigate the impact of exercise at different times of the day, focusing specifically on differences between men and women. The results are interesting, showing that for men exercising at night is a better option, while for women it depends on what they want out of it.

“Here, we show for the first time that, for women, exercising in the morning reduces belly fat and blood pressure, while exercising in the evening increases upper body muscle strength, power and endurance, and improves overall mood and nutritional satiety,” said Dr. Paul Arciero, lead researcher on the study. “We also showed that, for men, exercising in the evening was associated with lower blood pressure, heart disease risk and fatigue, and burning more fat than exercising in the morning.”

The trial involved 27 women and 20 men who were undergoing a 12-week exercise program called RISE previously developed by the team. Participants were given 60-minute sessions by a trainer four days a week, with each day focusing on resistance, sprint intervals, stretching, or endurance training. The only difference was whether they exercised between 6:30am and 8:30am or 6:00pm and 8:00pm and followed a careful meal plan.

All participants were between the ages of 25 and 55, were in good health, of normal weight, and had very active lifestyles. At the beginning of the trial, their aerobic capacity, muscular endurance, flexibility, balance, upper and lower body strength and explosiveness, and jumping ability were assessed. Other measures of health, such as blood pressure, arterial stiffness, respiratory exchange rate, body fat distribution and percentage, and blood biomarkers, were compared before and after the trial, as well as questionnaires about their mood and food satiety.

While the health and performance of all participants improved in the trial, there did appear to be some differences in the degree of improvement on some measures, regardless of what time of day they exercised. The study found that all women in the trial lost abdominal, hip and total body fat, as well as lower blood pressure, but the improvement was greater in the morning exercise group. Interestingly, though, only men who exercised at night saw improvements in cholesterol, blood pressure, respiratory exchange rate, and carbohydrate oxidation.

The team said the research could help people understand what time of day they should exercise, depending on their gender or what they want out of it. However, it’s important to note that this is far from certain, and regular exercise is important no matter when you do it.

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology.

Source: Skidmore College via Scimex

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