The timing of exercise is linked to the risk of stroke and heart attack

The timing of exercise is linked to the risk of stroke and heart attack
November 14, 2022• Press release

People who exercise more in the morning have a lower risk of stroke and heart attack. This is the result of a study conducted by researchers from Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC). This is not just about intense exercise like sports, but really all physical exercise in the day. The study appeared today in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

“Exercise is good for your health, almost everyone knows it,” said doctoral student Gali El-Blak. “When we talk about the health benefits of exercise, it quickly boils down to how often and how intense you exercise, and you almost never talk about when you could exercise better.” By examining the exercise data of more than 85,000 Britons, El-Balaq and colleagues found that people who exercised late in the morning, from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., were 16% less likely to have a heart attack and 17% less likely. chance of having a stroke. This is compared to people who do not have a clear peak in exercise.

biological clock

“Timing seems to matter,” says Elbulk. According to the researchers, the explanation for this lies in our biological clock. This ensures that everything in our body, from cells to organs, has a 24-hour rhythm. “It’s important that all of these rhythms are in sync,” says Elbulk. “If you break down, which sometimes happens to people who work night shifts, the risk of developing diseases of old age, such as diabetes and dementia, increases.”

Exercise, as well as timing your food and exposure to light, ensures that your biological clock stays in the right rhythm. “We believe that the peak of exercise in the morning is in line with your biological rhythm and that more health benefits can be achieved in this way. In this case, with a lower risk of heart attack and stroke,” explains co-author Raymond Nordam.

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Greater effect in women

The ages of the participants in this UK population study ranged from 42 to 78 years. They wore a wristband that tracked their every movement for a week. Accordingly, they were divided into four groups: people who move most in the early morning, late in the morning, afternoon and evening. Participants were followed for 8 years to see how many had a heart attack or stroke. It turns out to be roughly 3,800. Then we calculated which exercise style had the least risk of this, Nordam says. This turns out to be late in the morning and is independent of the total amount of exercise in the day, and thus also applies to people who do very little exercise.

Interestingly, this effect was greater in women. After breaking down by gender, researchers found that women who exercised more in the morning were 22% to 24% less likely to have a heart attack. With this study design, in which they used historical data, the researchers cannot explain exactly why.

sports lessons

The effect of exercise timing on your health is a relatively new area of ​​research. Therefore, the underlying mechanisms are often unclear, but there is increasing evidence for the importance of timing. Whether exercising in the morning is the only reason to reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke remains to be seen from studies in which people are asked to exercise at a certain preset time. Nordam and Black will soon begin this intervention study for older adults, giving them exercise classes in the morning or evening. Blake: “Ultimately, we not only want to tell people that they should do more exercise, but also when they can do it better.”

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This research is funded by the Heart Foundation and the BioClock Project funded by the NWO. Read the full article in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

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