As a health professional, I’m inclined to say whatever time you’re most likely to actually get do it, but research now suggests that there is real benefits to a.m. exercise. Several studies now suggest that early exercisers weigh less, miss fewer workouts, sleep better and more.
Research presented at the American College of Sports Medicine’s annual meeting last week found that subjects had better overall sleep and sleep quality when they exercised in the a.m, compared to exercising at 1 pm or 7 pm. What’s more, other research found a link between exposure to light in the morning is linked to lower body weight, according to Kathryn Reid, a research associate professor at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
Researchers at Appalachian State University studied the effects of exercise timing on the sleep patterns of six male and three female subjects. Each subject completed three trials consisting of 30 minutes of treadmill exercise at 7 a.m., 1 p.m. or 7 p.m. on separate days. All subjects wore devices that tracked sleep time and quality of sleep.
Results? Aerobic exercise at 7 a.m. invoked significantly greater improvements in quality of sleep compared to either exercising at 1 p.m. or 7 p.m. When subjects exercised in the morning, they had higher-quality sleep with significantly more time in deep REM sleep.
Seven Ways to Become An a.m. Exerciser
1. Organize all your workout clothes/gear at night. Make it as easy as possible to get your workout in by having everything ready to go.
2. Go to bed earlier. When you start working out early, you’ll naturally start wanting to go to bed earlier too. But when starting out, try going to bed 30 minutes earlier than normal so it’s easier to get up for your workout.
3. Enlist a friend. Call a friend to see if s/he will meet you. Those who have exercise companions are more likely to get their workouts in.
4. Do what you love. There are so many ways to become fit, you don’t have to do something you don’t like. Find something (anything!) that you like and do that. It’s also great to shake it up, and do different types of exercise so it never gets boring. For best results combine aerobic exercise with strength workouts (with either bodyweight exercises or weights).
5. Reward yourself. For each am that you exercise, give yourself a little reward like a nice nonfat latte. The best part of all my am workouts is the latte at the end! After a week of doing your morning exercise, splurge on a new exercise DVD or video. There are so many great ones now, one of my favorites is P90X. It’s an at-home version of Crossfit which focuses on muscle confusion for building strength and endurance.
6. Don’t have an all or nothing attitude. If you only have time for a half hour workout, when your routine is usually an hour, go for the half hour and give yourself a pat on the back. Try to make up during the day (take the stairs, take a brisk walk on a break. When I have early morning meetings, I not only shorten my workout routine, but try to increase the intensity. If I walk out of an vigorous group fitness class early, it’s all smiles, no guilt!
–Sherri Nordstrom Stastny, Ph.D., RD, CSSD., Assistant Professor, Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences at North Dakota State University
7. I never know when co-workers or friends are going to want to go out for a glass of wine after work. If I haven’t exercised in the morning, I have to go to the gym after work, so no wine (big whine!), no great time relaxing with friends. I do, however, keep it to one glass and no appetizers. Although happy hour only happens maybe once a week, it’s in the back of my head on some of those “don’t want to do this” mornings, so I get up and go in order to keep my evening options open.
–Colleen Luther RD, LD