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Timing of exercise is more important than type or length, in order to ensure health benefits

To fully benefit from exercise, timing sessions to optimally match the body’s circadian rhythms is more important than the type or duration of the exercise, according to a report.

A study published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology found that for getting the best benefit from exercise – in terms of preventing heart disease and stroke – the optimal time of day to move is between 8 am and 11 am.

For the study, researchers – led by Gali Albalak at the Leiden University Medical Center – monitored 86,657 participants aged 42-76 over six years, using wearable trackers to chart heart-rate data.

During follow-up, 2,911 participants developed coronary artery disease (CAD), and 796 participants developed a stroke.

Risk patterns for CAD, stroke and ischaemic stroke were identified by investigating their associations with when they had been exercising.

For the risk of CAD, stroke, and ischaemic stroke, the researchers found a clear pattern in which high relative physical activity during the nightly hours (12 pm – 6 pm) was associated with higher risks.

A high relative physical activity during morning hours (8 am – 11 am) was associated with lower risks.

Crucially, the data showed the same results, irrespective of personal chronobiology – in layman's terms, whether the participants were "night owls" or "morning larks".

"The study adds to the previous evidence that timing of physical activity is an additional independent contributing factor to CVD risk, and therefore adds a novel dimension to CVD risk prevention," the researchers write in their final report.

"Most notably, we observed that participants with the highest daily physical activity performed during the late morning had a 16 per cent decreased risk of CAD and a 17 per cent decreased risk of stroke compared with participants who best represented the average (midday) pattern of acceleration of the UK-Biobank population."

To read the full report, click here.


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