(ORDO NEWS) — Exercise is beneficial no matter the time of day, but a new randomized control trial has shown that morning and evening exercise can affect different parts of the body and mind.
For 12 weeks, 27 healthy and active women and 20 healthy and active men participated in a strict diet and exercise program.
The weekly routine included four days of training, including sprints, resistance training, stretching and endurance training, plus three days of rest on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.
Half of the group did an hour-long daily exercise in the morning before breakfast and the other half in the evening before dinner.
Ultimately, all participants showed a significant improvement in fitness and health, but morning and evening workouts produced different results, especially for women.
Women who exercised in the morning burned 7 percent more belly fat and lowered blood pressure by 7 percent more than women who exercised in the evening. Morning exercises also contributed to the increase in leg strength.
In contrast, women who exercised in the evening showed higher levels of upper body strength, mood, and food cravings. What’s more, muscle strength increased by 29 percent and endurance by 15 percent compared to those who exercised in the morning.
Compared to women, the men in the study were less affected overall by exercise time. However, evening workouts resulted in a slight decrease in blood pressure and an increase in fat oxidation compared to morning workouts. Evening workouts also increased fatigue by 55 percent.
“Based on our findings, women interested in reducing belly fat and lowering blood pressure while increasing leg muscle strength should pay attention to morning workouts.
However, women interested in increasing upper body strength, power and endurance, as well as in improving overall mood and food intake, evening workouts are preferable,” explains physiologist Paul Arciero of Skidmore College.
“Conversely, evening exercise is ideal for men interested in improving heart and metabolic health, as well as emotional well-being.”
The study is the first to look at how a varied exercise regimen affects an individual depending on the time of day.
Previous studies have also shown that morning exercise produces different physical results compared to afternoon or evening exercise, but there is little data on the variety of physical activity, and most of the studies have focused only on men.
Today, by some estimates, women only participate in 3 percent of all sports science research, and animal research is often no better.
Previous studies in mice, for example, have shown that morning exercise is more conducive to fat loss, while evening exercise improves blood sugar control. However, these studies only looked at male mice that did one serving of aerobic exercise.
The new long-term study included both men and women, although the sample size is limited for other reasons. Nearly all participants were Caucasian and physically healthy.
Despite these limitations, the results suggest that the timing of daily exercise affects women’s physical performance to a greater extent than men’s physical performance.
Why this is so remains unclear, but the authors have several hypotheses. Previous research has shown that men and women have different circadian rhythms that affect human physiology and psychology throughout the day.
In fact, every cell in the human body works according to its own clock, cycling through its activity over a period of about 24 hours.
Timing physical exercise to certain peaks and troughs in hormonal levels, metabolism, and neuromuscular factors can theoretically affect a person’s muscle strength, their cardiovascular system, body composition, and physical performance.
The authors suspect, for example, that overnight fasting somehow prepares the female body for more fat loss in the morning.
On the other hand, men who exercise in the evening are working at a peak metabolic rate. This can be an advantage when it comes to using fat as fuel for evening workouts.
While body fat loss was similar in men regardless of workout time, those who exercised in the evening showed increased fat oxidation, which may be a sign that the body is preparing for real fat loss in the long term.
Training lasting more than 12 weeks can help determine if this is indeed the case.
The question of the ideal time to exercise is still hotly debated, but more diverse, long-term studies like this one could help clarify the conflicting data that scientists have collected so far.
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