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Is Uncle Cyril’s morning exercise plan really best for us?

If you’re living in Zambia right now and you want to exercise outside your home, then you’re going to do it every day between 6am-9am. No questions. No arguments.

At home you’re welcome to do midnight aerobics or 3am yoga. But jogging, walking, cycling or strolling with the dog is as strictly defined as ‘exercise hour’ in the prison yard.

Why 6am-9am? Has our government taken advice from a panel of highly educated exercise gurus who, through extensive research, have determined that this is the optimum time for our workout?

Unlikely, seeing as health and fitness professionals around the world seem unsure of this. In fact, much of the advice is as simple as “exercise when you can”. If 11am nude dancercise in front of the telly is your thing, then that’s fine. It’s far healthier than spending all day on the couch munching chocolates.

Morning exercise can assist with weight loss

To be fair to our government, though, there is a slight propensity among experts towards morning workouts.

“You might have heard that the best time to exercise is early in the morning; to get your metabolism going or to avoid unexpected distractions during the day that could derail your workout,” observes the American Heart Association.

“But if you’re not a morning person, it may not work for you to try to get up at dawn to work out.  The key is to do what’s most likely to work for you consistently.”

American Heart Association

Anthony Hackney, a sports science professor, believes that working out in the morning, especially on an empty stomach, is the best way to burn stored fat and lose weight. That’s largely because the body’s hormonal composition in the morning is set up to support that goal.

“In the early morning hours, you have a hormonal profile that would predispose you to better metabolism of fat,” Hackney says in a Time magazine article. Human beings naturally have elevated levels of cortisol and growth hormone in the morning, both of which are involved in metabolism, so you’ll draw more of your energy from your fat reserves.

If you’re not an early bird, don’t force it

But then he adds a proviso: if you’re really not a morning person, don’t force it. “You may be exercising, but it may be at such a low intensity level that you’re really not expending a lot of energy,” he explains.

In fact, afternoon workouts may give your performance a boost because you’ll have eaten a meal or two and that means you’ll have higher blood sugar levels and be able to work out at a higher intensity.

And then, to really throw the exercise cat among the workout pigeons, online publication Quartz reports on a study published in the Journal of Sports Sciences that found we work harder in the evening, which can have even greater benefits.

“Conceivably, if we are working harder in the evening, over time, we will expend more energy, potentially leading to greater weight loss than with morning exercise,” says Quartz.

Really, any time that you exercise may be best

“To get the most health benefits from exercise, the best time of day to exercise is when you will actually do it,” Quartz notes.

“What we do know is you are more likely to do it regularly if you select a time and stick to it, regardless of whether it’s morning or evening. Exercising consistently at the same time each day is one of the best predictors of developing a long-lasting exercise habit.”

Perhaps the answer, then, is to ask Uncle Cyril to rather give us a two-hour exercise window in the morning, two in the afternoon/early evening, and perhaps an hour at midday for those who are eternally indecisive about their exercise routine?

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