Is there a best time of day to train?

Is there a best time of day to train?

Should we train morning or evening, is it better in our lunch-break, or just whenever we have the time? 

There is in fact a scientific study that suggests there is an optimal time to train. Training at the right time can make you stronger, faster and more powerful.

We all have what’s called a circadian rhythm, which is our daily cycle of biological activity – the most obvious of these is the sleep-wake cycle.

This is due to our internal clock – the part of our brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN. This SCN functions a little like you would expect a pacemaker to. SCN interacts with pretty much every major system in the body.

What time of day is best for exercise?

But it’s alright talking all this science, all you really need to know is the best time to train. And the answer, according to studies, is usually between 2.30pm and 8.30pm (yep, quite a large window of opportunity!) If your sessions are longer than an hour, train a little bit earlier. This advice is based on the assumption that you sleep when it’s dark and are awake during daylight hours.

For those with an altered or irregular sleep-wake cycle, like students or shift workers, then you should wait at least six hours after waking before starting your training, so it’s likely that your optimal training time will be close to 8.30pm.

Peak performance times, called the acrophase, differs across activities as well, so swimming performance peaks a little later in the evening than most land-based activity. You may have noticed a time of day when you perform better naturally, so it’s a good assumption to believe this is your peak time for training.

Use your heart rate to gauge when the best time is for you. The time of day when your resting heart rate peaks is normally the best time of day to train.


The Author

Laura Briggs

Laura loves running, Pilates and Yoga, and is forever trying to find the time to fit these activities into her life around a busy family. When she's got time to herself you might find her knitting, or in the kitchen trying out an elaborate recipe - healthy of course!.

Comments

Frank H.
17 March 2016

Frank H.

I have to exercise when it fits with my schedule - it just so happens that that time is within this optimal window but I know others who can't trained any later than first thing in the morning because that's what works for them. I don't think I get more out of my workouts than they do but I suppose the theory was well tested - I'll have to see if my friends want to compare results and see if we experience the same.

craig t.
15 March 2016

craig t.

the best time of day to train is going to be whenever is convenient for you. if you try to do it in the window of 2.30 - 8.30 when you haven't got time then you'll just end up not exercising at all. Plus, the received benefit for exercising in the opportune window must be negligible.

Mike D.
15 March 2016

Mike D.

Yes! Morning time! I love the feeling of getting up and moving straight away, then getting on to work with feeling energized and healthy. I just don't feel like it otherwise, Although lunchtimes are good too.

Clare R.
13 March 2016

Clare R.

interesting stuff. For me, exercise needs to be around lunchtime; I'm not a morning person and in the evening I just want to head home. I will monitor my heart rate to test the theory.

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