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The Best Time of Day to Exercise If You Struggle to Make It a Habit, According to Research

Struggling to make your sweat session a habit? Here’s how to make it stick.

Struggling to make your sweat session a habit? You’re not alone. About 60% of Americans don’t hit their recommended activity level on the regular, according to the latest estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And 1 in 4 adults admit to racking up zero minutes of exercise per week. 

Many of us try to start the year strong, and “exercise more” is consistently one of the top New Year’s resolutions. Yet the wellness app Strava (a workout-tracking platform) discovered that so many people drop off about 2½ weeks in, on January 17, that they deemed it “Quitters Day.” 

Since we know that exercise is one of the best, most efficient and affordable ways to reduce risk for several chronic diseases while boosting mental health, researchers are showing us how can we stick with it for real this time. 

Turns out, when we choose to work out can make a massive difference. An October 2020 study published in the journal Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews found that setting a consistent exercise time is a powerful way to make it more likely to happen. Morning workouts in particular were also shown to enhance weight loss among participants with obesity. The study authors believe this could be the result of: 

  • Easier planning: e.g., your best intentions won’t get derailed by a meeting that gets added to your calendar during your lunchtime workout 
  • Potentially increased satiety: you may feel less like snacking throughout the day since it started with an all-natural energy boost 

Earlier research found that any consistent time that works for your schedule is better than bopping that workout “meeting” around. Since this topic is still in its scientific “infancy,” according to ACE Fitness experts, more wide-ranging studies are needed to confirm the morning link. But the scientific community is pretty certain that marking the same time slot on your calendar daily, whenever feels most energizing and achievable for you, is the ultimate Rx to make exercise more of a habit. 

Just getting started? It’s not necessary to rack up a full hour per day or start training for a 10K tomorrow. Just 10 minutes of movement per day has been shown to help prevent dementia, and micro-workout “snacks” can boost metabolism by 43%! 

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