Morning Workouts May Lower Your Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke

A person in a gray hooded sweatshirt running along a dirt path in the early morning sun.


Key Takeaways

  • A new study found that working out in the morning may lower the risk of heart disease and stroke compared to working out at other times of the day.
  • Experts say that working out at night could interrupt your sleep patterns and influence your eating behaviors, which can affect your overall health. 
  • If you can fit workouts in earlier in the day, you could make the switch. If not, you can still do what’s best for your schedule.

Whether you prefer walking, running, or swimming, finding time for a workout can be tricky—even though physical activity has many health benefits.

When it comes to reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke, exercising in the morning might be more beneficial compared to other times in the day, according to a new study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

Researchers found that exercising in the morning was associated with a lower risk of having a heart attack or stroke—no matter how much physical activity people did, in total, throughout the whole day.

Gali Albalak, a PhD candidate at Leiden University Medical Center and a co-author of the study, said “we all know that physical activity is important to reduce cardiovascular risk, but this study suggests that the timing of when you are physically active also plays an important role.”

Workout Timing and Heart Health

For the study, Albalak and her colleagues used data from the U.K. Biobank cohort which included 86,657 adults between the ages of 42 and 78. The average age of the participants was 62 and 58% of them were women. None of the participants had heart disease at the start of the study.

The participants wore activity trackers on their wrists for seven days in a row, and researchers monitored hospital admission or death related to a stroke or coronary artery disease (CAD).

During the follow-up of six to eight years, the researchers found that 2,911 participants developed CAD, and 796 had a stroke.

The participants who were the most active between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. had the lowest risks of both heart disease and stroke compared to other peak activity times (midday and evening).

After adjusting for factors like age and sex, they discovered that the participants who were the most active in the early and late morning had 11% and 16% lower risks of incident CAD compared to the reference group. Furthermore, the people who were the most active in the late morning had a 17% lower risk of incident stroke compared to the reference group.

When the researchers analyzed the results according to the participants' sex, they found that the women who were most active in the early or late morning had 22% and 24% lower risks of heart disease, and the women who were most active later in the morning had a 35% decreased risk of stroke.

“This effect was somewhat stronger in women than in men, but was not affected by the sleep chronotype of the participant,” said Albalak.

According to Albalak, the study’s findings were consistent regardless of how much daily activity the participants got in total and whether they identified as being a “morning” or “evening” person.

Why Would Morning Exercise Be Better?

While more studies are needed to better understand how activity in the morning might lower the risk of heart disease and stroke, experts think it might have to do with biological clocks and circadian rhythms

Alexander Postalian, MD, an interventional and general cardiologist at the Texas Heart Institute, told Verywell that people who exercise late at night might also be eating later in the day or putting off when they go to sleep, which could affect their overall health.

“It’s not advised to exercise late at night because it interferes with your sleep pattern and could affect your healthy, balanced nutrition,” said Postalian. “That’s why I think working out in the morning is the one that they found to be the most beneficial.”

According to Albalak, physical activity is a “zeitgeber”—a cue that helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythm. Food intake and exposure to light are also zeitgebers.

These behavioral aspects of our lives—such as working out in the morning or avoiding our phones right before bed—can calibrate our biological clock and the circadian rhythms with each other and our environment (e.g. the day and night cycle of Earth).

“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,” said Albalak. “We hypothesize that being physically active in the morning is the most appropriate timing to correctly set your clock.”

Do You Have to Work Out in the Morning?

Postalian said you shouldn’t change the time of day when you work out, especially if what you’re currently doing flows well with your daily routine.

“Essentially, it’s when you can and whenever it’s easier on your schedule,” he said. “It’s sometimes a big ask to have someone change aspects of their lifestyle.”

Some people might prefer to exercise in the morning before heading off to work or school, while others might only have time to fit in a workout later in the evening.

Whatever your day is like, make it a goal to fit in physical activity whenever you can and stick to a routine that works best for your schedule.

“The most important thing is to be physically active,” Postalian said. “It doesn’t really matter at what time you do it, as long as it doesn’t affect your sleep and nutrition.”

How Can I Get More Morning Activity?

Overall, Albalak said that “if you have the opportunity to be active in the morning—for example, on your day off or by changing your daily commute—it wouldn’t hurt to try and start your day with some activity.”

If you are can’t squeeze in your workout in the morning, don’t worry. There are some other ways toget in some physical activity earlier in the day, such as:

  • Walking to school or work if you can
  • Taking the bus or train
  • Using the stairs instead of the elevator during the day when you can
  • Parking in a spot that’s far from the entrance to the building

What This Means For You

Working out in the morning may lower your risk of cardiovascular disease compared to exercising at times in the day.

If you can exercise earlier in the day, consider making a switch—but if not, don’t worry. Experts say that getting in daily physical activity, no matter what time you do it, is better than getting no exercise at all. Bottom line? Do what works best for your schedule.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Benefits of physical activity.

  2. Albalak G, Stijntjes M, van Bodegom D, et al. Setting your clock: associations between timing of objective physical activity and cardiovascular disease risk in the general populationEur J Prev Cardiol. Published online November 14, 2022. doi:10.1093/eurjpc/zwac239

By Alyssa Hui
Alyssa Hui is a St. Louis-based health and science news writer. She was the 2020 recipient of the Midwest Broadcast Journalists Association Jack Shelley Award.