“What’s the Best Time of Day to Exercise?”
“When should I train?”
Those are questions I get often. Researchers from John Moores University, in Liverpool, England, reviewed the scientific literature and found that 6 PM is the best time of day to exercise(1).
It has to do with circadian rhythms, your “biological clock”. According to Wikipedia, a circadian rhythm is a roughly-24-hour cycle in your biochemical, physiological or behavioral processes(2). Simply put, your body functions cycle through the day.
Core body temperature peaks at 6 PM, and so do strength and sport performance. Studies found that leg, arm, and back muscles as well as swimming, cycling, football, tennis, and badminton performance top at 6 PM.
Coaches agree that it changes greatly among people, however. Try training at different times of day to discover which works best for you.
Here’s the relevant excerpt from the review mentioned above:
Many aspects of exercise performance display circadian rhythms closely synchronized with the rhythm in core body temperature. These include peak force of leg and back muscles , arm muscles , anaerobic power output, and performance in broad and vertical jumps . The self-chosen work-rate, which is the level at which individuals pace more sustained efforts, also exhibits a circadian variation—one that mirrors the body temperature curve. Peak performance was found to occur at 18:00 hours, the same timing observed for muscle strength and flexibility (see Fig. 1) . Although these variables comprise components of performance rather than outcomes in competition, performance in simulated contests or time trials corroborates the existence of circadian rhythms; this applies to swimming [9,10], cycling , football skills , tennis skills , and badminton .
1. Reilly T, Waterhouse J, Edwards B. Jet lag and air travel: implications for performance. Clin Sports Med. 2005 Apr;24(2):367-80, xii. Review.
2. Wikipedia. Circadian rhythm. Page viewed July 29, 2008.
So, when is your best time of day to exercise? Comment below to answer. Mine is 6 PM.
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