Exercising in the Morning Helps Protect Against Heart Disease, New Study Says

It can help prevent coronary artery disease and slash ischemic stroke risk.

Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for one in every five deaths each year. However, experts say there are many simple ways to reduce your risk of poor heart health—beginning with your morning routine. In particular, shuffling your schedule at the start of your day could make a significant impact on your cardiovascular health.

Read on to learn how shifting one health habit to mid-morning could slash your risk of heart disease and stroke.

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Making this change to your morning routine could protect your heart.

Senior couple exercise together at home health care with dumbbells close-up
Viktoriia Hnatiuk / Shutterstock

According to a Nov. 2022 study published in The European Journal of Preventative Cardiology, making one particular change to your morning routine could help protect against cardiovascular disease and reduce your risk of stroke. The researchers behind the study say that individuals who regularly exercised in the morning saw significant improvements to their heart health when compared with those who exercised the same amounts, but at different times of day.

In particular, the team found that those who exercised at 11 a.m. were 16 percent less likely to develop coronary artery disease (CAD)—the most common form of heart disease in the U.S—and 17 percent less likely to experience a first-time stroke. The test group was also 21 percent less likely to experience a first-time ischemic stroke, compared to the control group who exercised at other times.

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Women benefit the most from morning exercise, the study says.

woman exercising early in the morning

Researchers added that while anyone can see heart benefits from exercise, women saw the most notable benefits from shifting their exercise schedules to the morning. In fact, women who exercised in the late morning were able to lower their risk of CAD by 24 percent, the team wrote. However, when they looked at the men's data separately, they found the benefits of changing workout timing were not statistically significant.

The reasoning for this discrepancy remains unclear. However, lead study author Gali Albalak, a PhD candidate at the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, suggested that it could be because the underlying causes for cardiovascular disease is often different in men and women.

This is why timing matters, researchers hypothesize.

Closeup alarm clock having a good day with background happy woman stretching in bed after waking up, sunlight in morning.

Albalak acknowledges that her research doesn't go so far as to establish causation. However, the study's findings are in keeping with past research which suggests that exercise timing could impact health by affecting our circadian clocks. "We already were able to identify that morning physical activity was associated with metabolic health—BMI, glucose levels, and insulin resistance—in a group of 207 healthy but sedentary older adults," she told Medical News Today.

"Physical activity is, just like food intake and exposure to light, an important 'Zeitgeber' or circadian clock trigger," Albalak continued. "From other research, we know that eating after 8 p.m. or exposing ourselves to bright light at night can have detrimental effects on our biological clock. We hypothesize that being physically active in the morning is the most appropriate timing to correctly set your clock," she added.

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Exercise offers heart benefits for everyone—at any hour.

A senior man stretching with a group of people in a park while exercising

Though the research indicates that exercising in the late morning is most beneficial for women, many experts will tell you that the best workout routine is the one you can actually stick to. If exercising in the morning is impractical on a regular basis, you may benefit more from choosing a routine that fits more comfortably into your daily life.

Experts from Johns Hopkins University say that three types of exercise are important to heart health: aerobic exercise, resistance training, and stretching. Ideally, getting a minimum of 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week plus additional resistance training and stretching should help lower your heart risk factors. "Aerobic exercise and resistance training are the most important for heart health," physiologist Kerry J. Stewart, EdD, wrote for the university blog. "Although flexibility doesn't contribute directly to heart health, it's nevertheless important because it provides a good foundation for performing aerobic and strength exercises more effectively," he added.

Speak with your doctor to learn more about improving your heart health through exercise and other simple interventions you can try at home.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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