30 Jun The Most Important Time Of Day For Exercise
There is always that one super motivated person in the office that everyone envies. Someone who wakes up at 4:30am in time to organise themselves, get down to the gym and smash out a high-intensity session before commuting to work. These people are often the ones we look up to – if only we had that much discipline! We’d always achieve our goals!
Something about waking up first thing in the morning and being organised and motivated to climb out of bed on a cold winters’ morning, makes us think that must be the key to success. So, is there a right time to workout? Should I be setting my alarm before the sun even rises?
A recent study from the Brown Alpert Medical School looked at the link between the time of day that a person exercises and how consistent they are likely to be with their workout routine.
The study looked at 375 adults who had previously lost 30 pounds and were able to keep it off for a whole year. These people already performed exercise 2 days a week and were fairly solid and consistent with their programs. Interestingly, 68% of participants worked out at the same time every day and of those, around half (47.8%) of the people who trained at consistent times did so in the mornings.
What does this mean? Is there something particularly special about working out in the early hours of the morning – while the rest of us sleep? The evidence suggests maybe.
The authors put the higher levels of consistency down to one thing; automaticity. This is simply the idea that we perform activities with a lowered amount of conscious awareness – it’s a habitual process that somehow drags us out of our toasty sheets and beckons us to throw on some sneakers.
In the study, this idea of automaticity was the main reason for consistent exercise routines; those that exercised more had a significant relationship with those that had a sense of automaticity.
So how do we create this feeling of automaticity?
The authors in the study suggest that having cues or “priming” as they refer to it, is a good way to get those non-conscious brainwaves flowing. For example, going to the gym immediately and consistently after your morning coffee would prime your brain into thinking that morning coffee is always paired with a workout. This type of habitual conditioning leads to less motivation and attention required to get the job done.
So, doing the same exercise, at the same time of day in the exact same location has a very strong relationship with a solid and consistent exercise routine. The most important takeaway though, was that cues relating to time were most important.
The study found that performing exercise at the same time every day was linked with having a regular exercise routine and performing more minutes of exercise every week. This suggests that simply having a consistent time to work out maybe more important than any other cues – including the time of day. In fact, the authors suggest, “exercising at the same time of day, regardless of whether it is during the morning, afternoon, or evening, may help with achieving higher physical activity levels.”
So before you go to bed tonight with your yoga pants on and your sweatband within arm’s reach, ask yourself what would be the most convenient time for you to work out consistently. If that’s immediately after work, during your lunch break or in the wee hours of the morning, it doesn’t matter. Find something that works, something that you can stick to, and this then becomes your most important time of day.