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Why Women’s Best Time of Day to Exercise May Differ From That for Men

| Super User | Contour


Men and women have differing ideal training schedules, according to a Frontiers in Physiology study.

Men and women burn more fat in the evening, study shows. According to the study, morning exercise helps women lower blood pressure.

The Findings

Arizona State University, California State University, Chico, and Skidmore College studied 30 "extremely active" men and women ages 25 to 55. The study considered “extremely active” adults as those completing more than 30 mins of structured physical activity 4 days a week for more than 3 years.

For this assessment, 12 weeks of stretching, resistance training, sprint interval training, and endurance training were studied. Participants did one of four workout routines four times a week.

The first group exercised from 6:30 to 8:30 in the morning, and the second worked out from 6 to 8 in the evening.

Overall, morning exercise decreased women's blood pressure and belly fat, while evening exercise increased muscular function.

For men, evening exercise reduced their fatigue, systolic blood pressure, and fat burning.

According to the study, a subject's exercise habit may be critical for enhancing exercise-induced health and performance, independent of macronutrient consumption.

So, morning exercise promotes overall and abdominal fat reduction, decreases blood pressure, and strengthens lower body muscles. Evening exercise enhances upper-body endurance, power, and strength and mood.

Both morning and evening exercise increased guys' strength, while evening exercise offered additional benefits related to lower systolic blood pressure, decreased fatigue, and fat burning.

Athletic Performance, Hormones and Sleep

Megan Johnson McCullough, a bodybuilder and NASM trainer in Oceanside, California, says that hormones and sleep affect the optimal times to exercise.

McCullough says men and women sleep differently, which affects how exercise affects them. Men and women may have different optimal exercise times and types (cardio vs. strength training). Sleep cycles affect exercise performance.

She also notes that sleep affects hormone production, especially since women spend more time in deep slumber than men.

According to McCullough, that means that women are often more awake in the morning. Thus, they may burn more fat in the morning because they are more alert. Men may be more prepared to workout in the evening because they must wake up their bodies during the day.

Cortisol levels are highest in the morning, therefore if there is stress-induced fat, the morning may be best for burning it off. Men can employ morning aerobics to 'burn off' tension. Any morning workout will drop blood pressure, McCullough told Healthline. Higher cortisol levels limit muscle growth, therefore nighttime strength training may be better. Women who workout in the morning have more testosterone and strength.

DJ Mazzoni, a qualified strength and conditioning consultant and medical reviewer at Illuminate Labs, says the best time to exercise depends on several factors.

Mazzoni says it's too involved to just prescribe a gym time by gender. Both sexes have different exercise inclinations.

Individuals exercise best when it's convenient and enjoyable, according to Mazzoni. Some people exercise after a difficult day at work, while others prefer to sweat in the morning. Working out when you're motivated will certainly yield better outcomes than working out on a predetermined schedule.

Mazzoni said, "Workouts 3 hours before bedtime can impair sleep." People prefer cardio since they aren't "weighed down" by breakfast. Many people prefer lifting weights since eating and digesting increases strength and performance.

Jake Dickson is a personal trainer and BarBend contributor. He wondered why men and women reacted differently to workout schedules.

Nighttime exercise improves men's emotional, metabolic, and cardiovascular health. Improving metabolic health reduces the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, CVD, and stroke, says Dickson.

Missing Gender-Specific Exercise Recommendations

Personal trainer, movement therapist, and bodybuilder Kent Probst says ACSM's exercise assessment and prescription recommendations are the same for men and women, and that there isn't enough scientific data for gender-specific activity assessments and pharmaceutical recommendations.

Probst said exercise time matters for everyone.

“[Resistance training] peaks between 4 and 6 p.m. This is why flexibility, speed, and strength are at their peak. Resistance training is most effective between 4 and 6 p.m.”

Probst recommends doing cardio between early and midmorning, when muscular endurance and stamina are maximum. Mental acuity peaks about noon, so do sports-specific activities then.