The debate between those who exercise in the morning and those who do it in the afternoon goes back a long way. Some studies are in favor of a time slot and others from another, for reasons often focused on sports performance improvements more than for health.
Now, a new study published in the journal European Journal of Preventive Cardiology suggests that one time slot is higher than the other. At least as far as reducing cardiovascular risk is concerned, achieving significant protection against heart attacks and strokes.
In this case, according to the new study, the morning physical activity would be the best option. It would be linked to a lower risk of heart disease and stroke, regardless of the total amount of exercise performed.
As Gali Albalak, from the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands and lead author of the study, explains, it is well known that physical exercise is good for heart health. According to the new work, the schedule would matter too to maximize potential benefits. In addition, the findings would be particularly striking in womenand the results would be similar both in early risers and in those with more nocturnal tendencies.
To reach these conclusions, the study used data from the UK Biobank, including 86,657 adults between 42 and 78 years of age without previous cardiovascular diseasesBeing the 58% women. A wrist-based activity tracker was worn for seven consecutive days, and participants were followed for incident cardiovascular disease. That is, a first hospital admission or death related to coronary artery disease or stroke.
The follow-up lasted from six to eight years on average, during which 2,911 participants developed coronary artery disease, and another 796 suffered a stroke. But when comparing the peak hours of activity in a 24-hour period, it was found that being more active between 8:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. was associated with lower risks of heart disease and stroke.
In a second analysis, the researchers divided the participants in four groups according to the peak hour of physical activity. The groups were as follows: at noon, before 8:00 a.m., between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m., and around 7:00 p.m. The associations between the peak time of activity and the incidence of cardiovascular disease were analyzed using the midday as a reference group.
Thus, after taking into account other factors such as age and sex, it was concluded that the participants who were more active in the morning in general (before 8:00 a.m. or between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.) had a 11% and 16% less risk respectively of suffering from coronary artery disease compared to exercise at noon. Furthermore, those who were more active late in the morning They had up to 17% less risk of having a stroke.
When the results were analyzed separately according to sex, it was found that the benefits were particularly significant in women, and not so much in men. The most active women in the early morning had a 22% and 24% lower risk of coronary artery disease, respectively. Likewise, the most active women in the late morning had up to a 35% lower risk of stroke.
To finish, Albalak explains that the study is not without limitations. This is an observational study, so a clear causal relationship between hours of exercise and risk reduction cannot be established, nor why the benefits are greater in women. In addition, it would be premature to advise morning exercise based on this study, although it is hoped that the exercise recommendations may be refined over time and further studies may be conducted.