You may have heard lots of varying opinions on the optimal time to exercise and this is probably because it can be quite a complex topic! Before we delve deeper into this topic, let’s preface this upfront by saying that exercising at any time of the day is better than none at all. Whether you exercise in the morning, evening, before or after food, you are still going to reap all the well-known benefits of physical activity. For those who are interested in maximising activity, there may be some advantages of exercising at particular times of the day and this timing will depend on your overall goal.
If weight management is a goal, there is some research that suggests exercising in the morning may be advantageous for weight loss and management. Although we are still learning why this may be the case, some studies suggest we may be better at using fat as a fuel source first thing in the morning. A few small studies have also found that, for some individuals, exercise in the morning might have some effect on controlling appetite and calorie intake when compared to exercise performed in the evening.
If your exercise goal is more central to performing at your best, studies have shown that we may perceive exercise as “easier” in the afternoon and therefore may be able to push harder. However, when we look at different types of exercise, the research suggests something different. While we may perform better at activities requiring strength and physical effort in the afternoon, skills-based activities tend to be better performed in the morning. That being said, we can train ourselves to perform at our best at different times of the day!
If you are living with diabetes and glucose management is your primary goal for exercise, then the advice is different again! This advice may also vary depending on what type of diabetes you have. For people living with type 2 diabetes, there is some evidence to suggest exercising within 30 minutes after having a meal can help improve blood glucose levels. You may like to try this and use your own blood glucose monitoring to see if it has an effect on your blood glucose levels. For people living with type 1 diabetes, you guessed it, the advice is a bit different! Physical activity can increase the risk of hypoglycaemia (or low blood glucose levels), which can be a major barrier to activity for people living with type 1 diabetes. If your main goal is to avoid hypoglycaemia related to activity, research has shown the best time of the day is fasting, first thing in the morning (before you have had any rapid acting insulin). This is because insulin levels are at their lowest in the mornings, lowering your risk of hypoglycaemia.
As you can see, the best time for one person, may not be the best time for another. The other elephant in the room is that you may only have one opportunity to fit you exercise in for the day! So for you, that will be the best time to exercise!!