By Alan Mozes
Health Day Reporter
MONDAY, November 21, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Regular exercise has long been hailed as a great way to maintain heart health, but could a morning workout have more benefits than an evening trip to the gym?
New research suggests that for women in their 40s, the answer appears to be yes.
“First of all, I would like to emphasize that being physically active or exercising at any time of the day is beneficial,” said study author Gali Albalak, a doctoral student in the Department of Internal Medicine at Leiden University Medical Center in Leiden, the Netherlands.
In fact, most public health guidelines ignore the role of timing altogether, Albalak said, focusing primarily on “exactly how often, how long, and at what intensity we should be active” in order to reap the most heart health benefits achieve.
But Albalak’s research focused on the ins and outs of the 24-hour wake-sleep cycle — what scientists call the circadian rhythm. She wanted to know whether there might be a “possible additional health benefit to physical activity”. if People choose sports.
To find out, she and her colleagues turned to data previously collected by the UK Biobank, which tracked the physical activity patterns and heart health status of nearly 87,000 men and women.
The participants were between 42 and 78 years old and almost 60% were women.
All were healthy when fitted with an activity tracker that monitored exercise patterns over the course of a week.
Cardiac status was again monitored for an average of six years. During this time, around 2,900 participants developed heart disease and around 800 suffered a stroke.
By comparing cardiac “incidents” and exercise times, the researchers found that women who exercised primarily “late morning”—that is, between about 8 a.m. and 11 a.m.—appeared to have the lowest risk of heart attack or stroke.
Compared to women who were most active later in the day, those who were most active early or late morning were found to have a 22% to 24% reduced risk of heart disease. And those who exercised mostly late mornings saw their relative risk of stroke drop by 35%.
However, the increased benefit of morning exercise has not been observed in men.
Why? “We have not found a clear theory that could explain this finding,” Albalak noted, adding that more research is needed.
She also emphasized that her team’s conclusions were based on an observational analysis of exercise routines, rather than controlled tests of exercise timing. This means that while decisions about exercise timing appear to affect heart health, it’s premature to conclude caused heart risk to increase or decrease.
Albalak also emphasized that she and her team are “very aware that there are societal issues that prevent a large group of people from being physically active in the morning.”
Still, the results suggest that “if you have the opportunity to be active in the mornings – for example on your day off or by changing your daily commute – there would be no harm in trying to start your day with some activity. “
The results struck an expert as interesting, surprising and somewhat puzzling.
“I can’t think of a simple explanation,” admitted Lona Sandon, program director in the Division of Clinical Nutrition at UT Southwestern Medical Center’s School of Health Professions in Dallas.
However, to gain a better insight into what is happening, Sandon suggested that gathering information about the participants’ eating habits might be helpful in the future.
“We know from nutrition research that eating food in the morning makes you feel fuller than eating it in the evening,” she said. That could indicate a difference in the way the metabolism works in the morning and in the evening.
This could mean that “the timing of food intake before physical activity could affect nutrient metabolism and storage, which could further impact cardiovascular risk,” Sandon added.
It could also be that morning workouts tend to lower stress hormones more than late workouts. If so, that could impact heart health over time, too.
In any case, Sandon echoed Albalak’s admission that “any practice is better than no practice.”
“So exercise at the time of day that you know you can stick to a regular schedule,” she said. “And if possible, instead of a coffee break, take a morning exercise break.”
The report was published on November 14 in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
Visit Johns Hopkins Medicine for more on exercise and heart health.
SOURCES: Gali Albalak, PhD student, Department of Internal Medicine, Geriatrics and Gerontology Subdepartment, Leiden University Medical Center, The Netherlands; Lona Sandon, PhD, RDN, LD, Program Director and Associate Professor, Department of Clinical Nutrition, School of Health Professions, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas; European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, November 14, 2022