Morning workouts provide biggest benefit for the heart – especially among women

SOPHIA ANTIPOLIS, FRANCE—— It's no secret that exercise can protect your heart, but it turns out the timing of your workouts may be even more important. Morning physical activity appears to provide the greatest boost, leading to the lowest risk of heart disease and stroke, according to researchers from the European Society of Cardiology.

“Exercise is known to be beneficial for heart health, and our study now shows that morning activity appears to be most beneficial,” study author Gali Albalak from the Leiden University Medical Center said in a media release.

Albalak and team analyzed data from more than 85,000 people in the UK Biobank. The records included adults aged 42 to 78 who were free of cardiovascular disease (CVD) at study entry. On average, those involved in the work were 62 years old, and 58 percent of them were women. For seven days, participants wore wearable activity trackers, and the team tracked whether they experienced cardiovascular disease — or first hospitalization or death from coronary artery disease or stroke.

After six to eight years of follow-up, 2,911 participants developed cardiovascular disease and 796 had strokes. By comparing the time of activity, the researchers found that activities between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. produced the lowest risk for both types of events. The team then performed a second analysis, dividing participants into four groups based on the peak time of exercise. The four groups were divided into midday, early morning (8am), early morning (10am) and evening (7pm) workout groups. The study authors assessed the relationship between time of peak activity and CVD events, using midday exercise as a reference group.

Women get the biggest boost from morning workouts

The team adjusted for age and gender and still noticed similar trends. Compared with the midday group, those who were most active in the early morning or later in the morning had an 11% and 16% lower risk of cardiovascular disease, respectively. In addition, those who were most active in the late morning had a 17 percent lower risk of stroke.

Analyzing the results by sex only, the researchers found that the results were significant among women but not among men. Women who were most active in the early morning or early evening had a 22% and 24% lower risk of cardiovascular disease, respectively. In addition, women who were most active in the late morning had a 35 percent lower risk of stroke.

The researchers noted that it was difficult to draw firm conclusions (especially transgender) due to the observational nature of the study. Still, it provides good evidence that morning exercise has more benefits than evening exercise.

“This is an observational study, so we cannot explain why this association is more pronounced in women. Our findings suggest that morning activity, especially early in the morning, may be most beneficial, increasing the health benefits of physical activity.” Evidence of benefit. It is too early to formally recommend prioritizing morning exercise, as this is a fairly new field of research. But we hope that one day we can improve the current advice by simply adding a line: “When exercising, it is recommended to Do it in the morning,” concludes Albalak.

The results of the study were published in European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

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