Does It Matter When You Exercise If You Want to Keep Weight Off?

Researchers tapped into the habits of those who maintained a weight loss of at least 13 kg to find out.

  • People who consistently work out during the same time of day tend to get about an hour more exercise each week than those who are inconsistent in their exercise timing, according to a study published in Obesity.
  • Though it doesn’t matter what time you choose to exercise, most consistent exercisers do so in the early morning hours, when life is less likely to get in the way.

It’s the age-old question many people looking to lose weight have wondered: Is there a best time of day to exercise if you want to shed kg’s?

Researchers have examined this question for decades, coming up with no unequivocal answers

Now a study of successful weight loss maintainers reports that it may not really matter when you exercise per say, so long as you’re consistent in your exercise timing.

For the study, researchers analysed the data of 375 people that they collected from the National Weight Control Registry. The participants had lost at least 13 kg and had kept it off for at least one year. They answered a slew of questions about their exercise habits, including time of day, what type of activity they did, and how intensely they worked out.

The data revealed that the participants who consistently exercised at the same time of day, no matter when, got more moderate to vigorous exercise overall, averaging nearly 350 minutes a week, or close to an hour most days a week. Those who were more irregular with their exercise timing tended to exercise an hour less each week, averaging closer to 45 minutes most days.

The researchers concluded that “exercising at the same time of day, regardless of whether it is during the morning, afternoon, or evening, may help with achieving higher physical activity levels.” Studies show that you need between 225 and 420 minutes of exercise a week to lose a significant amount of weight, and up to 300 minutes of activity a week to keep it off.

Though consistent timing was more important than time of day itself when it came to getting regular physical activity, most of those consistent exercisers were also morning exercisers.

About 68 percent of the participants said they exercised the same of day, and half of them preferred to work out in the early mornings, between 4:00 and 9:00 a.m.

The researchers suspect that consistency helps you ingrain the exercise habit. So if you exercise every morning after you have your coffee, as you smell the java brewing, your mind gets ready to get going.

Early morning may be the easiest time to build that exercise habit, because it’s one of the few times of day when there aren’t a million things threatening to derail your best laid plans.

This study falls in line with preliminary research on the exercise habits of 30 weight-loss maintainers presented at the ObesityWeek academic conference in December of last year. The researchers found that they tended to have significant amounts of physical activity within three hours of waking up—likely because, again, in the early part of the day, there is less of a chance of something coming up to mess with your workout plans.

But if morning doesn’t work for you, don’t force it, thinking that it’s a magical solution to melt the pounds off. Just find a time of day that works for you to lace up your trainers or hit the gym and stick with it. Over time it’ll just be part of your regular routine, so you’ll actually exercise more often.



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