The Results Of A New Study On Women's Exercise Routines Might Surprise You

We all know that exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle. Most of us also know, that different exercise routines can yield different results. For example, if you followed Chris Hemsworth's diet to become Thor, you probably wouldn't end up looking like Black Widow.

Dr. Paul Arciero was the lead study author on a recent experiment published in Frontiers in Physiology which tested exercise routines on men and women. The professor of health and human physiological sciences at Skidmore College located in Saratoga Springs, New York, guided participants through equal exercise routines that included, stretching, resistance, sprinting, and endurance training — so think standard routines like running and bodyweight exercise. Participants were asked to exercise for an hour in the mornings before 8:30 a.m. or in the evenings between 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. A standardized diet was also followed by the 26 women and 30 men involved.

The overall verdict was no surprise — exercise and healthy diets are good for you. As Arciero says, "The best time for exercise is the best time you can do it and fit it into your schedule." 

Yet, diving further into the data, Dr. Arciero found there were some subtle differences that you may want to factor into your routine if you have the luxury of choosing your workout time. The study author found that men and women got different workout benefits based on the time of day they exercised.

Best workout times for men

This study, as shared by Medical News Today, focused on times of day and not types of exercise, eliminating variables such as exercise equipment mistakes or different diets. The 56 participants aged 25 to 55 took part in a 12-week program. One interesting insight was shared by Dr. Asad R. Siddiqi, assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City. "The men studied had greater improvement in perceived mood state than women. The exercise seemed to decrease tension, depression, anger, substantially in men regardless of the time of day, whereas improvements in tension and depression were only seen in women who exercised at night."

Improvements in the men studied were "less pronounced" than in the women, but exercising at all showed improvements in the men's physical performance. Exercising in the evening, however, added "benefits in heart and metabolic health, as well as lower fatigue."

Posits Dr. Arciero, "The precise mechanism, is not clear, but may be related to neuro-hormonal-psychological effects of exercising later in the day as a form of a 'stress-reliever' that may also favorably impact sleep quality. It's interesting to note that [p.m.] exercise in men also significantly reduced feelings of fatigue."

Best exercise times for women

So what does this mean for women? Medical News Today shares more insight from the experts, namely that women seemed to get different benefits depending on the time of day they exercised. With morning exercise the study's women, "reduced more total fat and abdominal fat, lowered their blood pressure to a greater degree, and increased lower body muscle power." With evening exercise, however, women studied showed, "more improvement in their upper body muscle strength, mood, and satiety."

One suggestion for this result as shared by BBC suggests that women burn more fat in the morning because they have "more belly fat" although further information on this idea isn't clear. Women appeared more sensitive to time of day factors than did the men studied.

It should also be noted that all participants were already quite fit and healthy. When asked about the potential for those who are currently overweight Dr. Aciero posited it could show even greater impact. "They have more opportunity to benefit," says Dr Arciero.