This could be the best time to start exercising to improve your heart health: Study

Adults who exercise in the morning have a lower risk of developing heart disease than those who exercise in the afternoon, according to researchers.

Exercise to improve heart health
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A summary of the story

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide.
  • Exercise on a regular basis has been shown to improve heart health.
  • It was previously unknown whether the timing of exercise influences the risk of stroke or heart disease.

According to new research on over 86,000 people, exercising in the morning is associated with the lowest risk of heart disease and stroke.

Individuals who were most active around 8 or 10 a.m. had 11 percent and 16 percent lower risks of incident coronary artery disease, respectively, than those who were most active during the day. At these times, women’s risks were reduced by 22% and 24%, respectively.

Participants who were most active in the late morning had a 17% lower risk of stroke, while women who were more active in the late morning had a 35% lower risk.

The findings, which are based on data from the UK Biobank, were published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. They were also consistent regardless of individual daily activity levels.

“It is well established that exercise is good for heart health, and our study now indicates that morning activity appears to be most beneficial,” said co-author Gali Albalak of the Netherlands’ Leiden University Medical Centre in a statement.

“The findings were especially striking in women, and they applied to both early birds and night owls.”

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death on a global scale. Its prevalence is expected to rise as people become more sedentary and rates of diabetes and hypertension rise, according to the authors.

The participants in the study ranged in age from 42 to 78, with the average being 62. Individuals did not have any cardiovascular disease at the time of recruitment, but they were overweight on average, with around 60% being women.

Participants wore a wrist monitor to track their physical activity for seven days between February 2013 and December 2015. All individuals were followed for six to eight years, until their first hospitalization or death due to heart disease or stroke.

Almost 3,000 people developed coronary artery disease and nearly 800 had a stroke during that time period. Those who were active between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m., on the other hand, had the lowest risks for both conditions.

“Because this was an observational study, we cannot explain why the associations were stronger in women,” Albalak explained.

“Our findings add to the evidence on the health benefits of physical activity by indicating that morning activity, particularly late morning activity, may be the most beneficial.”

However, Albalak believes it is too early for researchers to formally recommend morning exercise.

Adults should currently engage in 150 to 300 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week.

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