Now that my ski season is over, it’s time to move on. (Omigod was that me who said that? Move on? Holy crap.)
But really, it is. The seasons change and we have to change, too. Still, it’s good to keep in mind that ski season will come again, and staying fit over the summer can pay off big time when it does. Plus it’d be incredibly boring if we just sat around and didn’t do anything during the long off season stretch.
So during the off season, I spend a fair amount of time working out. This can be outdoor stuff — hiking, biking, swimming, stuff like that, which can be a lot of fun — or indoor stuff, like going to the gym to do weights or cardio, which isn’t quite as fun but I do it, anyway. Whatever form it takes, the important thing is to just get to get out there and do it.
Chances are this is something you already know. But here’s something you may have been wondering about: when’s the best time to exercise?
I searched the web for info on this, and really, there doesn’t seem to be any hard and fast rule. The best time, actually, is the one that works for you. For me, it’s morning. Typically, I get up between 5 and 5:30 AM — awful, I know; I have a horrible body clock — so I like to get my workout done and out of the way. I may actually be on to something. There are studies that say that morning workouts increase your energy for the rest of the day. What’s more, some even say that a morning workout boosts your metabolism, helping you burn more calories all day long. Morning workouts may also help you get a better night’s sleep, though as a chronic insomniac, I’m not sure I’d agree. Still, researchers at Appalachian State University tracked the sleep patterns of people ages 40 to 60 who walked on a treadmill for 30 minutes, three times a week. Participants worked out at three different times: 7 AM, 1 PM or 7 PM. The result: those who hit the treadmill at 7 AM slept longer and had deeper sleep cycles than those who exercised at other times of the day. In fact, the morning crowd spent up to 75% more time in the reparative “deep sleep” stage at night.
But not everyone is a morning person like me, or is motivated to hit the gym any time before noon. So for those of you who prefer the afternoon or evening, consider this: One small study found that afternoon exercise boosts workout performance. Researchers found that evening exercises had higher power outputs. They theorized that the more complex the movements required to perform the exercise, the more that the time of day can impact the performance. Another plus: we may be less prone to injury if we work out later in the day. That’s because our core body temperatures are higher, making our reaction time quicker and our muscles and joints more adaptable to exercise. This is corroborated in a 2010 study published in the journal Chronobiology International. Researchers found that as body and environmental temperature increases in late afternoon, so does enzyme activity and muscular function, so you can work out at your peak from about 2 PM to 6 PM.
Not everyone can choose when they exercise. Between family, jobs, and life in general, finding the time isn’t easy. So whether you choose to work out in the morning, afternoon, or evening, the important thing is to get it in at some point in your day. It’s all good.