A few months ago I noticed I was having a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.” When I stopped to reflect on why or what I’d done differently in my routine, I realized I’d skipped my regular morning workout. Whether it’s walking my daughter to daycare, hopping on my Peloton, or hitting sun salutations on my yoga mat, movement is a requisite part of my morning.
I can tell myself I’ll do a midday workout, but the truth is I never get around to it and by the time night rolls around you can forget about it. I’ve always known I’ve felt better after a morning workout, and as it turns out there’s science that proves it.
According to a study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, people who exercise in the morning have a lower risk of heart problems or stroke. Researchers looked at the physical activity levels of more than 85,000 people between the ages of 42 and 78 who wore fitness trackers for a week.
Participants were divided into four groups: those who were most active in the early morning (around 8 a.m.); mid-morning (around 10 a.m.); midday and in the evening (around 7 p.m.). Those who exercised before noon were determined to have a lower risk of developing heart problems, such as a heart attack. The findings were especially prominent in women and applicable to both early birds and night owls.
After the initial exercise timing was recorded, participants were monitored for six to eight years. Nearly 3,000 people developed heart problems and almost 800 had a stroke. When looking at a 24-hour period, researchers determined that being active between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. was most beneficial for lowering risk of heart disease and stroke.
Clocking your workout at the beginning of your day instead of hitting snooze has additional benefits, such as increased focus and decision making; better sleep; and the release of happiness hormones, such as endorphins, serotonin and norphenylephrine.
The study also found that participants with the highest daily physical activity performed during the late morning had a 16% decrease risk of coronary artery disease and a 17% decreased risk of stroke compared with participants who worked out midday, thus suggesting that the timing of your workout could be just as important as the workout itself.
“Our findings add to the evidence on the health benefits of being physically active by suggesting that morning activity, and especially late morning, may be the most advantageous,” lead researcher Gali Albalak said in a press release about the study. “It is too early for formal advice to prioritize morning exercise as this is quite a new field of research. But we hope that one day we can refine current recommendations simply by adding one line: ‘when exercising, it’s advised to do so in the morning.’”
Our new weekly Impact Report newsletter will examine how ESG expectations and issues are impacting the roles and responsibilities of today’s executives—and how they can best navigate those challenges. Subscribe here.