Time of day made less difference to men, who saw strength boosted whether it was the morning or evening. 

But exercise later in the day was found to do more to boost cardiac health in men, and to improve their metabolic health – reducing the risk of conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

The study of 30 men and 26 women – all active and healthy, and between 25 and 55 years old – lasted 12 weeks and monitored the effects of a varied fitness programme, which included stretching, sprint, resistance and endurance training.

One group exercised for an hour before 08:30 while the other group followed the same activities in the evening, between 18:00 and 20:00. All participants followed a specially-designed meal plan.

All study participants improved their health

All participants had their blood pressure and body fat tested over the course of the study, as well as their flexibility, strength and aerobic power at the start and end.

All those who took part in the study improved their overall health and performance over the 12-week trial, no matter when they exercised.

“The best time for exercise is the best time you can do it and fit it into your schedule,” says Dr Paul Arcerio, lead study author and professor of health and human physiological sciences at Skidmore College, New York state.