New Research: Exercising at This Time of Day Is Best for Your Heart

Updated: Jun. 12, 2024

New Australian research suggests your workout is a big exhale in every way, especially for a certain group of people.

You know exercise is good for you—and maybe you love to do it—but if you don’t spring out of bed eager to get breathless before breakfast, new research suggests there may actually be some heart-healthy benefit to getting your movement later in the day. 

The study, published in the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Care journal on April 10, 2024, was led by researchers studying respiratory medicine, exercise and metabolism at The University of Sydney. Their aim was to pinpoint the best time to exercise for overweight people and those with type 2 diabetes, analyzing whether the timing of exercise affected the rates of heart disease, vascular disease, and overall chances of dying.

The team referred to data from the UK Biobank to identify 29,836 adults with an average age of 62 years who were overweight (with body mass index of 30 or greater) or who had a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. All participants wore fitness tracking devices and were followed for an average of eight years for their longitudinal incidence of heart disease, blood vessel disorders, and death. The researchers also contrasted these same statistics between adults who exercised, and a set who didn’t.

Further, the “exercise” group had shared at which point in the day they tended to exercise: Before noon, between noon and 6 p.m., or between 6 p.m. and midnight. The study focused on moderate to vigorous exercise performed for more than three minutes at a time, like brisk walking, running, or other “high-energy” activities such as playing with children.

Overall, participants who exercised had a lower rate of heart and vascular disease and lower death rates than those who didn’t. But, among exercisers, those who tended to move in the evening experienced benefits that the morning and afternoon exercisers didn’t.

For one, moderate and vigorous exercise in the evening hours led to a lower mortality rate. Rates of cardiovascular disease were also lower among those who chose to move the most in the evening. Surprisingly, researchers revealed, “5-year all-cause mortality risk was 25–32% lower for participants in the evening aerobic moderate-to-vigorous physical activity group” than the afternoon or morning exercisers.

This Is the Best Exercise for Heart Health, According to a Cardiologist

This is an interesting finding, considering several past studies that showed the morning is a better time to exercise. For instance, a 2023 study in the journal Obesity concluded that those who were looking to lose weight should exercise in the morning between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. Other studies have shown that morning is a sweet spot for exercise because of its brain-boosting power.

However, the Australian study specifically examined longevity and cardiovascular disease. Maybe evening exercise is a relief to the heart because it’s a window to blow off steam from the day. The researchers note: “Although further research is needed to uncover the precise mechanism behind this association, our findings align with previous studies indicating that moderate- or vigorous-intensity exercise performed in the evening may be linked to lower mean arterial blood pressure, whereas among morning exercisers, it was increased.” They add that because the trend for type 2 diabetics is for blood sugar to be highest in the morning, this effect might be mitigated by evening exercise (though more research is warranted).

If you enjoy morning or afternoon exercise, you shouldn’t switch your routine unless you think it could help manage morning blood sugar issues or unless you speak with your doctor. It’s also safe to say that overall, exercise is generally good for both the heart and longevity no matter when you can fit it into your day.