Best time of day to exercise? It’s different for men and women

A new study has found that when women exercise in the morning, they lose seven percent more belly fat than in the evening.

They also see a greater reduction in their blood pressure and develop more leg strength.

On the other hand, the researchers found that men lose slightly more weight and lower their blood pressure more effectively when they exercise in the evening. The main improvement is the reduction of fatigue by 55 percent.

The general conclusion can be drawn here is that men and women benefit from exercising at different times of the day.

Timing exercises to achieve specific goals

Principal investigator Dr. Paul Arciero, a Health and Human Physiological Sciences Department professor at Skidmore College, New York, said the findings would help men and women adapt their exercise routine to achieve specific results. †

“Based on our findings, women interested in reducing abdominal fat and blood pressure while also increasing leg muscle strength should consider exercising in the morning,” he said.

“However, women interested in gaining upper body muscle, strength, and endurance, as well as improving general mood and food intake, prefer evening exercise.”

Conversely, he said evening gymnastics are “ideal for men interested in improving cardiovascular and metabolic health, as well as emotional well-being”.

Best time of day to exercise?  It's different for men and women

It is important to note that the participants in this “first randomized controlled trial of its kind” were all fit and highly active.

“Very active” means they have been doing more than 30 minutes of structured physical activity four days a week for over three years.

This small study started with 30 women and 26 men between the ages of 25 and 55. Three women and six men stopped because they could not maintain the demanding eating regimen (four meals a day at specified times) for 12 weeks. †

The results are generally interesting but difficult to replicate in the real world. For example, energy intake plays a key role in the overall success of any exercise/fitness program.

Previous research

In recent years, Exercise Time of Day (ETOD) has become a growing area of ​​research.

Previous studies have shown that morning or evening exercise has several benefits for improving strength, weight loss, cardio fitness, or metabolic health.

Most of that research initially focused on men, often unhealthy men.

A year ago, news gear reported on an Australian study involving men on the brink of developing type 2 diabetes.

One group exercised in the evening: Their fasting blood glucose, insulin, cholesterol, triacylglycerol, and LDL cholesterol concentrations all improved.

For those who exercised in the morning, their cardiorespiratory fitness improved.

But their unhealthy cholesterol levels, blood sugar instability, and molecular signals of impending heart disease were comparable to those seen in people who didn’t exercise.

Is there a difference between men and women?

Skidmore’s new study has been widely reported, but they note women’s poor inclusion in sports studies. Therefore, there is a wait-and-see attitude until more studies replicate the Skidmore findings.

As a report at Science Direct noted:

“Data on various exercise routines are scarce, and most studies have focused on men only.

“Today, some estimates suggest that female participants are only included in 3 percent of all sports science studies, and animal studies are often no better.

“For example, previous studies in mice have shown that morning exercise contributes more to fat loss, while evening exercise provides greater control over blood sugar levels. But this study only focused on male mice that did an aerobic exercise once.”

A 2019 study of unhealthy, overweight, or obese male and female participants found that exercising in the morning resulted in significantly higher weight loss than exercising in the evening.

If there were differences between men and women, they were not emphasized in terms of results or simply accounted for.

Why are the different times of the day important?

The circadian rhythm system that regulates our sleep cycle has also been shown to play an important role in regulating metabolism.

What this means: We burn more calories at different times of the day.

Interestingly, despite most ETOD studies showing that we burn more calories when we exercise in the morning, a 2018 study found that we burn about 10 percent more calories in the afternoon whether we’re moving or just sitting.

But metabolism isn’t the whole story.

Our eating habits, hormonal secretions, and body weight regulation are all determined to some degree by circadian rhythms.

How exercise supports, subverts, or counteracts those rhythms undoubtedly plays a role in what happens to our bodies.

The short answer, for now: Is it’s complicated.

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