Ask the experts: Best time to exercise

Q: "When is a good time of day to exercise to lose weight? I am walking and running at about 8.30pm but because I just go to bed when I get home, I thought it wouldn't help towards losing weight. Is it better to do exercise to lose weight in the morning, mid-afternoon or night? Or does it not matter what time of the day I exercise?"


A: Kristen MacKenzie, health and nutrition consultant at the Millennium Institute of Sport & Health, responds:

"Exercise puts a stress on your body. That is what causes the increases in fitness. Just as you are breathing faster with exercise, you also have an increase in heart rate and an increase in oxygen and fuels being used to keep you moving. Depending on the type and intensity of exercise you are doing, you will burn through a combination of fuel sources, which largely includes carbohydrate or fat (whether these are stored in the muscle or circulating).

Regardless of when, how or why you exercise, the fact of the matter is if you are moving and have increased breathing then you are burning fuel sources, and ultimately, if you are burning more of these fuels than you are taking in through diet, then you will lose weight. With particularly heavy sessions you will even burn fuels after exercise, even if you are sleeping!

The key is to ensure that your food intake is regular and low enough in kilojoules (or energy content) while enjoying good, lengthy exercise sessions. It is more important to make sure you have the time to do that exercise, than what time you do it, so find a time that suits you! For some people, exercising at 8.30-9.00pm might interfere with their sleeping patterns, so if that is a problem for you another time may be better. But if it works for you, there's no reason to change."

First published: Jan 2008

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