What is the best time of day to exercise?

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People participate in an outdoor workout and fitness session, June 10, 2022, in Nashville, Tennessee.

People participate in an outdoor workout and fitness session, June 10, 2022, in Nashville, Tennessee.

©Sara Kauss/GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/Getty Images via AFP

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Recent scientific studies have explored the benefits of workouts and sports sessions. Depending on the person’s fitness goals and gender, mornings or afternoons may have an advantage.

Atlantico: You recently published a study that creates an atlas of exercise metabolism in mice, published in the journal Cell Metabolism. You have shown that tissue sensitivity is different depending on the time of day and the alignment of the circadian clock in mice. Is what is true for mice also true for humans? Is there a best time of day for humans to exercise?

Juleen Zierath: The best time of day to exercise is when you can! Establishing a habit of daily exercise is important for your overall health and well-being. For many people, having a regular time of day to exercise helps ensure that you maintain the habit of exercising every day. However, there are certain times of the day that “tune” the response to exercise. To better understand, we recently conducted the most comprehensive study to date of physical exercise performed at different times of the day. For this, we studied the effects of running on a treadmill on the metabolic response to exercise in mice at two different times of the day. Blood samples and different tissues, including brain, heart, muscle, liver and fat, were taken and analyzed by mass spectrometry. This allowed us to detect hundreds of different metabolites and hormone signaling molecules in each tissue, and monitor how they were changed by exercise at different times of the day. Our research shows how different health-promoting signaling molecules are produced by the body in an organ-specific way after physical exercise, depending on the time of day. These signals have a broad impact on health, influencing sleep, memory, exercise performance and metabolic homeostasis.

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Do men and women react differently in sport? Why ? Does that mean they should exercise differently, at different times?

Men and women share much of the same adaptation to exercise, however, there are some differences. How men and women burn fat can vary slightly. Also, there are some differences in how men and women increase muscle mass in response to exercise. But the bottom line is that a regular exercise regimen is as important to the health and well-being of men as it is of women.

In a recent BBC report, you said that men who exercise in the evening reap the benefits. But how is this possible after a day’s work?

The men in our study exercised in the late afternoon or early evening. It’s not beyond the reach of what many people are doing today. Many people have rather sedentary jobs and appreciate being able to exercise after work.

Is it possible to adapt your fitness program, and the time when you do it, to your goals?

Just as athletes train to build strength, endurance and agility, so can we. For optimal health, we all need to improve our aerobic capacity, gain strength and maintain our flexibility throughout our lives. It is therefore possible to achieve gains in all these areas by modifying the exercise regimen.

What workouts should you do in the evening? the morning ? during the day ?

The answer to this question highly depends on personal preference, but there is some evidence that people have more strength in the afternoon, suggesting that strength training is best done in the afternoon. There is also evidence that individuals oxidize fat more in the morning, so endurance exercise may be best in the morning. In summary, it is recommended to find an exercise program that you like and stick to it!

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