Although exercising at any time is beneficial, a new study has found that a mid-day workout is linked to a lower risk of death from heart disease and cancer. Exercise doesn’t need to be structured to be beneficial. Even an afternoon walk around the block counts.

If you exercise at lunchtime, there may be times, perhaps when you’re unpacking the sweaty clothes from your gym bag each evening, when you wonder if it’s worth it. But the findings of a new study in more than 90,000 people might inspire you to keep fighting: Exercising in the afternoon reduces the risk of early death more than physical activity in the morning or evening. ‘afternoon.

The study, published Feb. 18 in the journal Nature Communications, provides strong evidence that a non-drug intervention such as physical activity makes a difference in health outcomes. The study ultimately shows that practicing moderate-to-vigorous activity (MVPA) is associated with a lower likelihood of dying from cardiovascular disease or cancer. It’s not just about weight, but also about moving for overall health.

Moderate to vigorous exercise reduces risk of death from all causes, heart disease and cancer

To examine the relationship between exercise, timing of exercise, and overall risk of death, as well as death from specific causes, the researchers used health and demographic data from approximately 92,000 people in a UK biomedical database. All participants wore an accelerometer for a week, which tracked the time of day they exercised and the intensity of their effort.

After collecting this data, the researchers placed the participants into one of four groups based on when they exercised:

In the morning, from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Afternoon, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
in the evening, from 5 p.m. to midnight.
A group that showed no time preference and exercised at different times of the day throughout the week.
After an average of 7 years, investigators checked the participants’ death records. A total of 3088 participants (3.4%) had died; 1,076 (1.2%) had died of heart disease and 1,872 (2%) had died of cancer.

People who exercise in the afternoon have a lower risk of early death than those who exercise in the morning or evening
The authors found that moderate to vigorous exercise at any time of the day was more effective than no exercise in reducing the risk of death from all causes, heart disease and cancer.

Effects not the same for everyone

People who exercised in the mid-afternoon and those who regularly changed their exercise times from day to day had a lower risk of death, both overall and from heart disease. to that of people who trained in the evening and in the morning. The authors conclude that the timing of exercise may maximize the health benefits of daily physical activity.

The overall results of this very large study match what researchers already know: The more you move, the healthier you are. But these results also provide additional insights into the ideal time of day when the majority of people indulge in MVPA to live longer.

Intuitively, it makes sense that midday exercise reduces the risk of death from heart disease and death from other causes. Vigorous physical activity performed early in the morning is known to increase the risk of a cardiovascular event, such as heart attack or stroke, compared to exercise performed at other times of the day, and exercise practiced at night can lead to sleep disturbances that can have adverse effects on the heart.

Who benefits the most from afternoon workouts?

The reduced risk of death from heart disease associated with afternoon workouts was particularly strong in men, the elderly, less active people, and people with pre-existing heart disease, the researchers noted. authors. Retirees, people with heart problems or obesity often choose to exercise in the afternoon because that’s when they feel the best. They’ve had their breakfast, their medicine, their bodies aren’t so sore.

Circadian rhythms may be linked to why exercising in the afternoon provides more benefits

Although the study was not designed to find out why the timing of exercise could influence early death, the study authors believe it may be related to our body’s circadian rhythms, which are the physical patterns , mental and behavioral that follow a 24-hour cycle. Circadian rhythms could be the key. We have spikes in blood pressure and other hormones like cortisol in the morning, and similar spikes at bedtime. Perhaps we are meant to be physically the most productive outside of these peaks. In the afternoon, the body had time to adapt sufficiently to the day. Our metabolism peaks in the afternoon: the heart, blood vessels, hormones, muscles, joints and nervous system are also functioning optimally, and we are usually well nourished at this time. The afternoon is therefore the best time of day for vigorous exercise because all of these processes are functioning optimally.

Morning exercise may be more effective at burning fat

While certainly the most important, this study isn’t the first to suggest that the health benefits of exercise may be timing-dependent. A study published in the December 2020 Physiological Reports found that people at risk of or diagnosed with type 2 diabetes improved their blood sugar control more if they exercised between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. than if they did in the morning.

Timing of exercise can also influence how our bodies burn energy and build muscle. In a small study published in the May 2022 issue of Frontiers in Physiology, researchers found that early morning exercise in women reduced total body fat and belly fat and increased lower body muscle power by their legs. Evening exercise in women significantly increased upper body strength, power, and endurance.

In men, evening exercise increased fat oxidation and decreased fatigue. Other research has shown a similar improvement in fat burning after morning exercise and improved sports performance and exercise in the late afternoon or evening.

Bottom Line: Exercise at a time that suits your lifestyle.

All the experts agree: The best time to exercise is when you can.

Tips for moving more in the afternoon

Rule number one: Exercise doesn’t need to be structured. Just move. Take the stairs on your lunch break, take a Zoom call while taking a brisk walk, host a dance party with the kids. Do what you can, and it all counts.

* criptom strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information given can not replace the opinion of a health professional.