6 Times You Should Exercise (and 4 Times You Definitely Shouldn't)

By , SparkPeople Blogger
You already know it's a good idea to exercise every day, but does the hour of your workouts impact their effectiveness? "The best time to exercise boils down to what works for you consistently," says Jessica Matthews, an exercise physiologist and spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise. That said, there may be certain times of day when your performance and efficiency will be higher—and other times when it may be less beneficial, or even downright dangerous, to hit the gym.
6 Times You Should Exercise
1. Exercise in Late Afternoon
A warm body is a (more) limber body, and your core temperature is at its highest in late afternoon. That means your muscles will be more flexible, more efficient and less prone to injury. Your resting heart rate will also be lowest in the afternoon, which will make exercise feel easier. Of course, that doesn't mean you should skip morning runs or lunchtime yoga if that's what works for your schedule.
2. Exercise in the Morning
Does the early bird get the better workout? Maybe not, but exercising in the A.M. does come with a slew of benefits. "You start your day off with a high burn, and get your energy up and metabolism running," says Jenn Burke, Fitness Manager for Crunch Gyms in Los Angeles. Studies have shown that getting moving in the morning could help curb cravings throughout the day, and it could help to prevent insomnia. Plus, you'll get your workout out of the way before other obligations interfere. 
3. Exercise with a Head Cold

Obviously, fever and flu don't make good gym mates. But if your symptoms are isolated to above the neck, such as a stuffy/runny nose or a sore throat, there's no need to hang up your running shoes. In fact, research on exercise and the common cold has shown that moderate exercise could actually make those symptoms more tolerable. That said, you may want to curb your exercise intensity a bit, and stick to your neighborhood sidewalk, home gym or living room to avoid spreading germs. You may want to try a workout video, or a 20-minute walk followed by stretching.
4. Exercise During the Workday
Sounds crazy, right? But you'd be surprised by how easy it is to squeeze mini exercise sessions into a busy workday. Park farther away from the entrance, walk outside during lunch and take the stairs instead of the elevator. You can even sneak in a 15-minute workout in your office or cube. In addition to boosting your fitness, studies have found that exercising during the workday may help to boost productivity and performance.
5. Exercise During Your Period
Although menstrual symptoms can make exercise seem unpleasant or even impossible during your period, physical activity can actually help to alleviate fatigue, pain, food cravings, irritability and depression. The endorphins released during exercise may help to relieve the pain of cramps and muscle tension, while also improving your mood. Plus, all that sweating during your workouts may help to reduce bloating. Unless your doctor advises otherwise, it's perfectly safe—and even recommended—to stick to your workout plan during your period.
6. Exercise When You're Tired
When you're not well-rested, it can be tough to get motivated to move, but it pays to push through that initial resistance. Research has shown that those who exercise regularly experience less fatigue than sedentary people. Next time you feel the mid-day slump creeping in, resist the urge to slam an energy drink or take a nap, and go for a walk or jog instead.
Times You Shouldn't Exercise
1. Don't Exercise with DOMS
Some degree of soreness is a welcome sign of an effective workout, but severe pain is your body's way of warning you to put on the brakes. If you're extremely sore a couple of days after a workout, you likely have Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), which is caused by microscopic tears inside the muscles. In that case, it's best to rest and ice the sore muscles. If you try to push through the pain, you could end up altering your form to compensate, which can cause injury. That said, active recovery with a light, low-impact activity, such as a walk or bike ride, will help alleviate soreness more than being completely sedentary.
2. Don't Exercise Too Soon after Surgery
After a surgical procedure, your body is expending a lot of energy into the healing process. When you exercise, you're diverting some of that energy to your muscles. You also run a higher risk of swelling and infection as your heart rate goes up and blood rushes to the surgical site. Talk to your doctor to find out how soon after surgery is safe to resume your exercise regimen.
3. Don't Exercise When You Have the Flu
Although it's usually fine to stick to your workouts when you have a common cold or "above the neck" symptoms, the flu is a different story. It's best to take it easy and let your immune system do its job. If you have a fever, that means your body is fighting off an infection, and it can also make you more prone to dehydration. Plus, the flu is contagious, so you should definitely steer clear of the gym and other group workout sessions.
4. Don't Exercise on a Full Stomach
It can be tempting to try to "work off" a big meal soon after eating, but it's best to give your body some time to digest your food before hitting the gym. Otherwise, some of your blood flow that would normally aid in digestion will be diverted to the muscles you're using during the workout and vice versa, so both processes will be less efficient than if you were exercising before eating or after just a light snack. To avoid the stomach/muscle competition, wait a couple of hours after a meal to get your fitness on.   
What is your experience with exercise and what time of day is best for you?

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GCWILLI1 9/27/2017
Wow! Finally, a clear delineation of when to work out and when not to work out! This was great information. Report
We exercise either 11am or 4pm. Either time reduces appetite for a major meal to come and raises energy levels. However, both of us still experience an afternoon slump after lunch but contrary to this article I have read many times that a nap or rest is beneficial. I love my afternoon rest. It gives me time to meditate, cogitate or nap. Report
Excellent information. Thank You Report
This was an excellent article. Thanks so much. When I used to run, I ran early morning or in the evening. I usually ate a piece of toast in the morning and a water bottle and in the evening I just carried water in the evening! I ran a couple hours after I ate in the evening! Report
I appreciate this article. I have not found however that exercising makes you more energetic. I have tried many varieties and come up extremely tired and have to rest! Report
Nice to see that this article has been nicely updated --
esp. after having read all the comments from 2013.

Thank you. Report
Saw a doctor on Weds for a rash and overall feeling of fatigue & soreness and turned out I might have Lyme! Yikes. The doctor told me I could exercise but at a very low level. With my HRM I can check my heart rate and am taking it very easy just to keep moving. Also getting a lot of rest. Feeling better already. Report
It would really help if you guys didn't simply restate others posts. We get the title is misleading. 20 comments later we get to "you need to click the link beneath". It takes energy to be negative (sarcastic, ironic, smart-assed), perhaps that energy could be spent getting more information or doing something productive. :) Report
So WHEN am I not supposed to exercise????? Report
All it is - a plug for Woman's Day magazine. Report
Here's a question for the "experts", what times of day should I exercise if I work thirteen hour overnight shifts??? I can't go to work exhausted and may day doesn't work along the afternoon work out suggestions that they make here...
Thank You! Good information. I learned some things! :) Report
Please let me strongly suggest that you rewrite the lead in to this story. The part you printed has nothing to do with the headline. Report
Good information, but, as others here have said - it would help if they listed the 4 times NOT to exercise as advertised in the headline, then told you to click the link for times when it is GOOD to exercise. Report
Confusing to have an article billed on the opening page as "4 times you shouldn't exercise" headed with times TO exercise--different title altogether. The content is typical for the pseudo-information that comes from Woman's Day and other non-expert sites. I wish I knew before I opened a story or whatever where it came from...I wouldn't open this stuff. Report
High heat index (above 90) = no . (from Womens day article) THat means no exercise 5-6 months a year for me. my heat index is above 90 at 6am in the summer, and most of the year. Obviously written for those acclimatized to mid-west or northern US. If you are in the south or a tropical area you need to adjust the number, and what hydration levels. Report
I prefer training in late afternoon and after work. But I will enjoy morning runs and mid-day hicking. Actually, I love to exercise: period! Report
We shouldn't have to go to another link. They should put it up there for us. Report
Great Advise. I was walking after dinner. Now I know to walk before. Report
Found this article quite confusing and misleading. I will stick to working out when I feel like it, which is in the mornings and afternoons when I walk to get my kids from school. listen to my body and rest when I need to, and exercise lightly when i am feeling under the weather along with staying plenty hydrated. Report
For me I think there is always an exception to the rule. I work swing shift and even though it is ten at night I go straight to the gym. I am not a morning person. So do what works for you consistently and results will happen Report
This article is very confusing - 4 times you shouldn't exercise and it lists 3? 6 times you should exercise? What? I wish this site would have the whole article and not make us go to another one to get the rest of an article. If they can't do that, they shouldn't bother putting it in at all! Report
You don't have to go to the gym to exercise when you have a cold. You can go for a walk or a run or do a DVD at home. Report
The real four don'ts are: not when you're really sick, not when it's really hot, not when you're injured, and not after a heavy meal. Hmmm, nothing new here, moving on. Report
Did follow link to Women's Day. Kept getting pop up ads while reading. Didn't finish the article. Report
Also found it confusing. Report
I agree. For the past few weeks, my Aunt and I have been walking almost 2 miles 3 days a week.
We enjoy it because we go before it gets too hot and then we have time to go home and do whatever else we need to do. Report
Click on the link to get the rest of the article. Report
I was a little confused too. But, if you click the link for "more workout tips from Woman's Day" it will make sense. You will get the full article that includes several times you SHOULD workout and 4 times you SHOULD NOT workout. Report
This is only part of the information. These are just three (of the six) times you should work out, the four times you shouldn't are on the article at Women's Day (follow the link). But I agree, as it is, this article makes very little sense. Report
I'm glad others are confused. I thought it might just be me. LOL! Report
I have a head cold and really do not feel like exercising :( Report
:/ Not the best written article in the world. Disappointed. Report
Very misleading article and really was no help at all.... Report
It is indeed so confusing I didn't even claim my SparkPoints for reading it... : ( Report
This article seems really contradictory: The 1st point (of 3 not 4) says you should work out in the late afternoon/early evening because that's the best. Then the 2nd point you should work out in the morning, because ppl who work out in the evening don't stick with it. Then point 3 says you should work out sick, even though it won't improve your symptoms--and you should take it easy because working out too hard will make you worse. Then after 3 points tell you when you should work out, there is no 4th point, and none of the points say when you should not work out. Spark's articles are usually more complete and helpful than this one. Report
So....WHEN exactly shouldn't we work out? It'd be nice if someone vetted the articles before posting them. Report
No I found the title quite confusing from the article also Report
Maybe it's opposite day or something. Title is very misleading Report
You need to click the link underneath to get the rest. I found that very confusing. Report
I'm confused - this article caught my eye with the headliner: 4 Times You Shouldn't Exercise. Yet, it listed three times you should exercise and was vague about the absolute times you should not. Perhaps it is just me. Did others read this differently? Report
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