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Three experts reveal the best time of day to get the most out of your workout

The World Health Organisation suggests 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week.

When is the best time to exercise? Is there one? We ask the director of the Taoist Tai Chi Society of NZ; an exercise studies professor; and a personal trainer to try and find the exact window for optimal achievement. 

The trainer: getting out and about in the morning puts your body in good shape for the day

Accredited personal trainer Aaron Boslem suggests morning routines for multiple reasons, from just getting on with it to preventing unhealthy habits from forming. 

"I come from the idea that it's all personal to the person," Boslem says, however, if you have the choice, opt for the morning to kick-start the day and stop your evening workout getting bumped off the list.

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"I'm a big fan of morning workouts. Reason being it sets the tone for the day .. you help to combat any inactivity that a work day brings by getting out and about early. 

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"Most people work their 9-5 at a desk and generally when they get home after a big day at work, they choose to sit on the couch - which is what they've been doing all day.

"It might be a bit relaxing and there's that need to recharge but physically, it's no different for your body." 

As a contractor, working with the likes of the Under-21s NZ Ferns netball squad; and High Performance Sport New Zealand, he encourages clients to work out first thing in the morning. Even if you have work of family commitments, he says there are still a lot of positives from working out at other times of the day.  

Exercising during lunchtime helps break the day into two, provides clarity and eases the performance crash most of us experience in the arvo. The evening, if you're motivated enough, is a good way to de-stress and get yourself ready for a good night's sleep.   
  
"In my experience [though]," he concludes, "it's the ones who have prioritised exercise over work in the mornings have typically been the ones that have had the best results … one hundred per cent".  

 

The Tai Chi instructor: Get your circulation pumping in the morning to combat stress
Senior instructor and director of the Taoist Tai Chi Society of New Zeland, Shona Hayles has been a member of the organisation for 24 years, and believes managing stress is a huge factor in overall wellbeing. 

"We think of stress as just being mental," Hayles says, "but consider the stress put on the body when the physical structure is not exercised and muscle tone maintained".

"Doing a 20 minute Tai Chi set in the morning before work is great to get the body circulation going, while at the same time providing that quiet meditative space to deal with stress." 

Hayles says it's the equivalent to walking a couple of kilometres, with the added benefit of not even needing to leave your home.

The a low-impact activity such as Tai Chi, means it's highly accessible to a huge cross section of people, as both young and old can participate, regardless of weight and current health.  

In terms of how popular an early session actually is in reality, the numbers speak for themselves. 

"Our largest attendance at classes is always in the mornings – including the weekends. We have two before-work sessions for existing members from 7am – 7.30." 

The academic: The issue is less about the time of day and more about getting sufficient exercise

Associate Professor Greg Anson, head of the Department of Exercise Sciences at the University of Auckland, echoes Boslem's sentiments about taking into account the individual and their needs. 

"It depends on people's personal preferences," Anson says. "Some are morning folk, some are evening folk, some are middle of the day folk who like to take a break from work and exercise."

"There are two aspects to exercising; firstly try to include a mix of aerobic, strengthening, and flexibility activities; and secondly time and intensity.

"The World Health Organisation suggests 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week."

Anson also reminds us that we shouldn't restrict ourselves to the gym or think we have to pound the pavement for a run to get healthy. Any kind of leisure activity that gets us off the sofa and mobile, from gardening to walking to work, can all contribute to a healthy lifestyle. 

However, if you simply can't make room for planting flowers or taking a stroll to the office, there is some good news.

"Emerging studies are showing that high-intensity, short-duration, workouts can provide the same kind of benefits as moderate or vigorous exercise, which appeals to lots of people, especially those who are time poor and want to engage in exercise." 

"The bottom line is; it's less about what time of day and more about engaging in physical activity. Exercise is good for you across the board."

The verdict: All activity is good activity. Although it varies from person to person, there is lots of evidence to suggest that short bursts of exercise are best, and if you're lucky enough to be a morning person, you should reap the rewards of an early workout. 

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