The Right Time to Work Out

Here's some timely advice on when to exercise during the day.

When you have to drag yourself to the gym -- or find yourself skipping exercise altogether because you feel flat -- you may discover you have more pep if you change your exercise time. Our bodies have natural rhythms that cause fluctuations in flexibility, strength, mental sharpness, and endurance over a 24-hour period. Studies show that it's possible for athletes to improve their performance 5 to 10 percent if they exercise during their body's peak times.

A study of 25 years of Monday Night Football games recently demonstrated how timing affects performance. The study showed how East Coast teams fared when they played West Coast teams. All games began at 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, but for West Coast players this was the equivalent to 6 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. Late afternoon and early evening are when athletic performance usually hits its daily peak. However, the East Coast players were starting at 9 p.m. relative to their body clocks and playing until midnight. Predawn hours are the low for athletic performance.

Dr. Roger Smith, who conducted the study at the Stanford University Sleep Disorders Clinic, found that West Coast teams won 64 percent of Monday Night Football games and won by an average 15 points. When East Coast teams won, it was by an average of only 9 points per game. These numbers might support the idea that -- to perform optimally and enjoy your exercise program -- you should time your workouts to your best time of day.