Health

Pump it in the P.M.

Running for your life at night

Which is better, exercising in the morning or in the evening? The clear and resounding answer is — at the end of the day.

Maybe I’m not a morning person. Maybe I need to be eased out of sleep, jolted by my java, and then eased gently into the bang of the day. Or maybe I just don’t like doing calisthenics at dawn like some hapless Army recruit at boot camp.

In the eternal debate between exercising first thing in the morning or getting your daily dose later in the day — yes, even in the evening — I’m firmly on the side of the p.m. workout. Don’t trust me? I’ve got doctors and research and studies to cite, including: Your body’s metabolism adapts better to a regular exercise routine in the evening, according to University of Chicago research. There’s plenty more:

  • Most male heart attacks take place before 9 a.m. Maybe it’s the excitement of waking up, or as one physician explained, maybe it’s the “thickness” of your blood at that hour. Whatever the cause, I say why push it? Clearly our hearts don’t want any shocks in the morning. And Monday mornings? Bad. Research shows a rise of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline on Mondays. So science proves that Mondays bite.
  • Exercise is tiring. I don’t buy the idea that working out in the morning pumps you up for the day. Forget that. It tires you out. Anybody knows that if you run, or row, or lift weights, for the better part of an hour, you need to recover afterward — not go to work.
  • You need your sleep. Here’s the thing about working out later in the day: You won’t lose any sleep over it. If you have to get up at 5:30 a.m. every day to work out, there will be mornings when you’re exhausted — like after those evenings when you get to stay up late with the older kids — or the partying adults.
  • The rhythm of the night. For years, studies have shown no loss benefits from working out later, even into the night. Last year came an even more telling study, done at the University of Chicago, showing that your body’s metabolism adapts better to a regular exercise routine in the evening.  According to the study, men who regularly exercise after 6 p.m. were 19 percent less likely to develop heart disease than those who exercised before 8 a.m. “We didn’t expect to see such large differences,” said lead researcher Dr. Ofeu Buxton.
  • Checking it off your list is lame. People in the morning camp think it’s a feel-good boost to know you’ve done your exercise for the day. Really? Is your sense of accomplishment for the day now satisfied because you worked out? Maybe you should also feel good about showering. Or brushing your teeth (check!). Exercise should be part of healthy living, like eating a banana, rather than a chore to check off.
  • You can look forward to after-work workouts. Unlike the morning workout, exercise in the evening is something to look forward to. No matter how lousy your day, you know that when it wraps up you can shake it off, get the kinks out and roar. You’ve probably been sitting a lot, stressing out, but now you’re up and about. You might feel tired, but it doesn’t take long to get the blood flowing, and that changes everything.

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