Those Who Work Out in the Morning Tend to Have the Best Weight Loss Outcomes, a Study Finds

Photo credit: South_agency - Getty Images
Photo credit: South_agency - Getty Images

One of the toughest parts of weight loss is keeping the pounds off once they’ve been shed, preventing the kind of yo-yo effect that has been shown to have serious health consequences.

Previous studies have confirmed that weight-loss maintainers tend to be highly active, which is one of the keys to success. That’s obvious. But how can people actually stick with those workout habits to keep the exercise a constant? And what’s the best time to work out during the day if you’re trying to lose or maintain weight?

That led researchers in Colorado to dive deeper into how those successful maintainers accumulated activity during a normal week, and which times of day they were most active. They found a pattern: Those who stuck close to their goal weights were the ones who worked out in the morning, and worked out at least five days a week.

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“First, I think that this study highlights the importance of physical activity for managing body weight,” says study co-author Seth Creasy, Ph.D., of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism, and Diabetes.

He told Bicycling that compared to control groups, weight loss maintainers were active in some way almost every day of the week, and made activity into a priority. That means even when they weren’t doing a scheduled workout—say, your long rides on the weekend—they were staying active throughout the day in other ways, too.

Those who got the most activity in the morning tended to have the best outcomes, the study found.

Presenting preliminary results at the ObesityWeek annual meeting, Creasy and fellow researchers reported that weight-loss maintainers had significant activity within three hours of waking up. They were also more active during the majority of each weekend day.

Although the study was small, with just 30 participants, Creasy believes that this should prompt more research into why morning workouts would be so much more successful for those trying to maintain weight. He hypothesizes that it’s likely due to fewer barriers—like rescheduled work meetings or changed social plans in the evening, for example.

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But what if you’re not a morning exerciser, no matter how many “hack your workout” tricks you try? Are you doomed to start swinging that weighty yo-yo?

As long as you’re making physical activity into a daily priority, and creating a workable habit that fits your personality, it’s likely you can be just as successful as an exercise owl as those workout larks in the study, Creasy believes.

“Consistency is what’s key,” he said. “These weight loss maintainers have made activity a habit, just like going to bed early or drinking more water.”

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