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What is the best time of day to workout?

(Photo courtesy Getty Images)

For those who work out, being consistent when you exercise is an important part of seeing results. Whether it’s in the morning, afternoon or night, an exercise routine comes down to what time works for each individual. But a 2012 study conducted by Dr. Hamdi Chtourou and Dr. Nazir Souissi showed working out consistently during the afternoon-evening has a slight advantage over in the morning.

To maximize your workout, finding the right time of day can make a difference.

The main advantages from working out later in the day is that the  diurnal variations that affect mental and physical activity reach their peak and having the most impact in the afternoon-evening.

Why are diurnal variations important for workout success? Diurnal variations are defined by the study as “various psychological and physiological functions” that changes in relation to one’s body clock and synchronized in how active one is during different times of day.  

According to the study, “the diurnal maximum is almost always found between 16:00 (4 p.m.) and 20:00 (8 p.m.)” while the “minimum is almost always found between 06:00 (6 a.m.) and 10:00 (10 a.m.).” This means that even if one exercises in the morning,

Researchers suggest that when the body’s core temperature, which is apart of the body’s diurnal variations, is at its highest, metabolic reactions are enhanced, extensibility of connective tissue is increased, and muscle tightness is reduced and muscle memory is increased. Working out in the afternoon and evening with a higher body temperature can be more beneficial than working out in the morning with reduced body heat.

“[Diurnal] rhythm of body temperature is among the most prominent rhythms associated with physical performance,” according to the article. Blood pressure is also correlated in a rhythm in a 24-hour cycle. Blood pressure is at its lowest when the body is asleep, goes through a surge in the morning and reaches its highest at midday. This is a contributing factor why you feel more awake and aware in the middle of the day and afternoon compared to the morning.

There are some exceptions that benefit working out in the morning versus night. Aerobic exercises such as running, cycling and swimming, someone exercising in the morning would benefit more by continuing to workout in the morning versus switching to nighttime workouts. Working out in the morning “can also improve typically poor morning performances,” however, “evening hours can increase neuromuscular performances” that allows one’s body to become more in sync with the type of workouts.

Although working out in the afternoon/evening times where one’s body is at its peak temperature and fully functioning can prove more to help athletic performance, it’s more important to go out and workout whenever is best, and stick with it for maximal performance.

Tyler Dare is a senior journalism major at Arizona State University

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