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Why Morning Exercise Is Best

It’s the time of the year when dietary temptations lurk around every corner of the hospital. And since completely abstaining is not always possible, the best antidote for this holiday deluge of inflammation is obvious: Exercise.

No doubt, within the boundaries of common sense, all exercise is good. But is there a best time of day to exercise?

Tara Parker-Pope’s New York Times piece suggests that the most “productive” time of day to exercise is before breakfast. In concisely reviewing a Belgian exercise physiology study, Ms. Parker-Pope points out that, in blunting the undesirable effects of a high fat and sugar diet, pre-breakast (fasting) exercise was metabolically more efficient than was exercise later in the day. That’s really good news for the overweight middle-agers who consistently say: “I really don’t eat very much. I must have a slow metabolism.”

Scientific studies are one thing, but are they validated in the court of real life?

In the case of the superiority of morning exercise, I believe that the Belgian physiologists are spot on. Here are five supporting observations (no doubt there are more):

1. When I have achieved my best fitness — which is no longer a mystery in the era of power meters — it has always been followed by a period of consistent morning workouts.

2. Most of the strongest cyclists I know have a regular regimen of morning exercise. (At least those non-trust fund types with regular jobs.)

3. To regularly exercise in the early morning hours has its prerequisites. Primarily, that one goes to sleep at an early hour. Sleep=health!

4. Pre-breakfast exercisers are less likely to miss a workout because of life’s speed bumps. Things like the three late-afternoon consults, a child’s basketball game, or a forgotten early-evening dentist appointment.

5. And then there are those amazingly youthful-appearing elderly patients who, more often than not, are earlier morning exercisers and good sleepers.

It’s both true and obvious that not all of life can (or should) be regimented. We’re not robots, we’re people. But for those who want the most metabolic bang from their exercise, both science and common sense suggest that morning exercise is best. And it feels so good, too.

Simple solutions lie right before our patients’ eyes. Can we help them see it?


*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*

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