Study shows link between morning physical activity and lowest risk of heart disease, stroke
Morning physical activity is linked to the lowest risk of heart disease and stroke, according to a study of more than 85,000 people published today European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, Journal of the ESC. The findings were consistent regardless of the total amount of daily activity.
Exercise is known to benefit heart health, and our research now shows that morning activity appears to be most beneficial. This finding was especially pronounced in women, and applies to both early birds and night owls. “
Ms Gali Albalak, Study Author, Leiden University Medical Center, The Netherlands
The study used data from the UK Biobank. It included 86,657 adults aged 42 to 78 who were free of cardiovascular disease at baseline. The mean age was 62 years, and 58% were women. Participants wore an activity tracker on their wrist for 7 consecutive days. Participants were followed for a cardiovascular disease event, defined as a first hospitalization or death related to coronary artery disease or stroke.
During six to eight years of follow-up, 2,911 participants developed coronary artery disease and 796 had strokes. Comparing peak activity times over a 24-hour period, being most active between 8am and 11am was associated with the lowest risk of heart disease and stroke.
In a second analysis, the researchers divided participants into four groups based on peak times of physical activity: 1) midday; 2) early morning (~8 am); 3) late morning (~10 am); and 4 ) at night (~7pm). These categories were chosen based on the time of peak activity of the study population, rather than being predetermined before the study began. The association between time of peak activity and cardiovascular disease events was analyzed using noon as a reference group.
After adjusting for age and sex, participants who were most active in the early morning or early evening had an 11 percent and 16 percent lower risk of coronary artery disease, respectively, compared with the reference group. In addition, those who were most active in the late morning had a 17 percent lower risk of stroke compared with the reference group.
The findings were consistent regardless of total daily activity and whether participants described themselves as morning or late risers. When the results were analyzed separately by sex, the researchers found that the results were particularly pronounced in women but no longer significant in men. Women who were most active in the morning or evening had a 22 percent and 24 percent lower risk of coronary artery disease, respectively, compared with the reference group. In addition, women who were most active in the late morning had a 35 percent lower risk of stroke compared with the reference group.
Ms Albalak said: “This was an observational study, so we could not explain why the association was stronger in women. Our findings suggest that being active in the morning, especially early in the morning, increased the health benefits of physical activity.” The evidence, is probably the most favorable. 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 will be able to refine the current advice by simply adding a line: “When exercising , it is recommended to do so in the morning'. “
european society of cardiology
Albarak, G., Wait. (2022) Set your clock: The association between objective physical activity time and cardiovascular disease risk in the general population. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. doi.org/10.1093/eurjpc/zwac239.