Forget morning workouts: Wearable tech says this time is best for your health

Exercising regularly is no secret to good health, but a new study suggests the time of day you squeeze in your workout might be more important than you think. Researchers at the University of Sydney followed over 30,000 adults for eight years, finding that those who did most of their physical activity in the evening had the lowest risk of death from cardiovascular disease. This was the case even if their exercise routine consisted of just short bursts of movement.

Fitness trackers and quantified self movement

The quantified self movement, fueled by the rise of fitness trackers and smartwatches from Fitbit, Apple, Garmin and others, has made us all more aware of our health and fitness than ever before. These devices keep tabs our steps, heart rate, sleep patterns and more, providing a wealth of data that can help us understand how our bodies work and how to improve our health.

As wearable tech continues to evolve, we can expect to discover even more about the impact of our daily routines on our overall well-being. Exciting times lie ahead for us into the quantified self movement.

Scientists are increasingly using wearable tech to conduct research studies. These types of devices are providing them with access to data they could not tap into before. A recent study by the University of Sydney is a prime example.

University of Sydney study on exercise

The new University of Sydney study on exercise and cardiovascular health was published in Diabetes Care. It involved 29,836 adults aged over 40 living with obesity, of whom 2,995 participants were also diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Researchers specifically recruited participants with these conditions, as they are known to be at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

Participants wore wrist accelerometers continuously for one week to track their physical activity levels throughout the day. The accelerometers measured moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA), which is any activity that gets your heart rate up and makes you breathe harder.

The researchers categorized each participant into one of three groups based on when they were most active during the day: morning exercisers, afternoon exercisers, and evening exercisers. They then tracked the health of the participants for an average of nearly eight years, examining health data from national healthcare databases. During this follow-up period, there were 1,425 deaths, 3,980 cardiovascular events, and 2,162 microvascular dysfunction events.

The study’s findings were fascinating

Here’s what researchers found:

  • Adults who were most active in the evening (roughly the period between 6pm and midnight) had the lowest risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Compared to not engaging in physical activity, this was associated with the lowest risk of all-cause mortality (Hazard Ratio [HR] = 0.39; 95% Confidence Interval [CI] 0.27-0.55). This translates to a reduction in mortality risk of 61%.
  • The benefits of evening exercise were particularly noticeable for the study participants who are classified as obese.
  • And finally – even short bursts of evening activity appeared to be helpful.

Afternoon (HR = 0.60; 95% CI 0.51-0.71) and morning MVPA (HR = 0.67; 95% CI 0.56-0.79) were also associated with a lower risk of death compared to no MVPA. But the reductions were not as significant as evening exercise.

This correlation remained significant even after adjusting for variables such as age, sex, smoking status, and diet. This highlights the robustness of the findings.

Not the only study

These conclusions have important implications for those who may have difficulty fitting traditional, longer workouts into their schedules. The study suggests that brief periods of exercise in the evening – such as a brisk walk, some strength training, or even a dance session – can still significantly improve cardiovascular health. And that you should time them in the late afternoon or early evening.

Essential readingTop fitness trackers and health gadgets

The University of Sydney study aligns with a broader trend in research that suggests our bodies may be primed for physical activity later in the day. Other studies, like one by Drust et al. (2005), have shown that physical performance, including muscle strength and endurance, tends to peak in the latter part of the day. Additionally, research suggests that evening workouts may contribute to improved blood sugar regulation and better sleep quality.

Of course, the most important factor is finding a time that you can consistently stick with. And that exercise becomes a regular part of your life!

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Marko Maslakovic

Marko founded Gadgets & Wearables in 2014, having worked for more than 15 years in the City of London’s financial district. Since then, he has led the company’s charge to become a leading information source on health and fitness gadgets and wearables.

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