Morning exercise linked to lowest risk

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People should exercise in the morning if they want to reap the best cardiovascular benefits, a study suggests. Image credit: wAleksandarNakic/Getty Images.
  • A new study investigates the potential effect of exercising at different times for preventing cardiovascular disease and stroke.
  • The study finds that people who exercise in the morning achieve the greatest reduction in risk. This is particularly true for women.
  • The best time of day to exercise may be around 11 a.m. according to the study.

Although exercise is always generally good for health, a large new prospective study finds that one particular time of day may offer the greatest benefit when it comes to lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and stroke.

The study found that physical activity in the morning, between 8 and 11 a.m., had the greatest positive effect on a person’s risk of CVD and stroke compared to activity at other times of day.

The association applied equally to individuals who described themselves as morning or evening people.

The study authors also found that people who exercised both early and late in the morning — versus mid-morning — derived the greatest benefit.

Dr. Paul Arciero, professor in the Human Physiological Sciences Department at Skidmore College in Sarasota Springs, NY, explained why the study is so persuasive:

“This is the largest prospective study to date in more than 86,000 participants, over a six-year follow-up period, examining the effects of exercise time of day, or ‘chronoactivity,’ on cardiovascular disease [heart attack and stroke] risk.”

“I think this study does a great job of trying to tackle a few of the biggest challenges in physical activity intervention research,” Dr. Asad R. Siddiqi commented to Medical News Today. “Namely, [the] scale of study, generalizability, and follow-up interval.”

Dr. Siddiqi is a sports medicine and rehabilitation expert at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian in New York. Neither he nor Dr. Arciero were involved in the study.

The study appears in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

The researchers analyzed data from 86,657 individuals in the UK Biobank. Their average age was 62, and they ranged in age from 42 to 78. The majority of individuals, 58%, were women. Accelerometers recorded participants’ physical activity over a period of 7 days.

Dr. Siddiqi expressed some concern about the study’s fitness tracking, noting that “[t]he participants were followed for only 7 days, and in a manner that involved an ‘intervention’ — wearing an accelerometer, which they otherwise may not do — and we always need to be cognizant of how these interventions affect participant behavior, i.e., the Hawthorne Effect.”

“The real question is whether a 1-week tracking period is a fair representation of habits throughout the 6 to 8-year follow-up period,” he said.

Dr. Arciero, however, did not consider this a problem, saying that “[b]ased on a previous research study, a 7-day physical activity accelerometer measurement is considered a representative time period to assess a person’s overall physical activity level.”

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