This may be the best time to exercise to improve heart health: study – The Hill

List of stories

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide.

  • Regular exercise has been shown to improve heart health.

  • Whether the timing of exercise affects stroke or heart disease risk was previously unknown.

Exercising in the morning is linked to the lowest risk of heart disease and stroke, according to a new study of more than 86,000 people.

People who were most active around 8 a.m. or 10 a.m. had an 11 percent and 16 percent lower risk of coronary artery disease, respectively, compared with those who were active around midday. For women, the risks were 22% and 24% lower during these periods, respectively.

Participants who were most active in the late morning had a 17 percent lower risk of stroke, while women who were more active in the late morning had a 35 percent lower risk of stroke.

The findings were published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology and are based on data from the UK Biobank. They were also consistent regardless of the total amount of daily activity an individual had.

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“Exercise is known to benefit heart health, and our study now shows that morning activity appears to be most beneficial,” co-author Gali Albalak of Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands said in a statement.

“This finding was especially pronounced in women, and applies to both early birds and night owls.”

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. Its prevalence is expected to increase as humans become more sedentary and as rates of diabetes and hypertension rise, the authors explain.

All study participants were between the ages of 42 and 78, with an average age of 62. Participants did not have any cardiovascular disease at the time of recruitment, but on average, they were overweight and approximately 60% were women.

For seven days between February 2013 and December 2015, participants wore wristband monitors to track their physical activity. The researchers followed all the individuals for six to eight years until they were first hospitalized or died of a heart attack or stroke.

During that time, nearly 3,000 people developed coronary artery disease and nearly 800 suffered strokes. However, those who were active between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. had the lowest risk for both conditions.

“This was an observational study, so we couldn't explain why the association was more pronounced in women,” Albalak said.

“Our findings suggest that morning activity, especially later in the morning, may be most beneficial, adding to the evidence for the health benefits of physical activity.”

However, Albalak added, it's too early for researchers to officially recommend morning exercise.

Currently, adults are recommended to complete 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week.

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