What is the best time to play sports?

What is the best time to play sports?

When to play sports for the best benefits? How to understand the right timing? Let’s see this by exploring both chronobiology and circadian rhythms


  • The individual choice
  • Circadian rhythms and sports
  • 3 tips on how to know when to play sports
    • Evaluate meals
    • Vary often
    • Don’t go to sleep late

The individual choice

Chronobiology is the science that studies vital and biological rhythms based on time. This science goes to deepen biological phenomena that are repeated in our systems. We refer to the sleep / wake rhythms, to those that concern actions we do during the day or night, to our response to external stimuli of various types. How we react to phenomena such as light or temperature depends strictly on our habits and our nervous system.

We certainly choose the moment in which to play sport individually based on rhythms that have become habits but, if we realize that we want to change something and that we are not feeling well, starting from the choice of training time could be a good idea. In many cases, work requires evening moments, but you could also try to engage in movement early in the morning. It is also very good to choose the lunch break. Those lucky enough to work from home or study manage to organize their day effectively by creating a routine that allows us to keep the muscles alive, nourish the bones, promote circulation. You can also choose to vary the type of physical work, giving priority to forms of cardio training when it is not too close to bedtime. At that moment, perhaps, you might prefer forms of work such as stretching and toning.

Circadian rhythms and sports

The term “circadian”, from the Latin circa dies or “about a day”, was coined in the 1950s by the German biologist Franz Halberg. The organism has its own endogenous rhythm which lasts about 24 hours and the light synchronizes this endogenous rhythm with the environmental conditions. In addition to the light / dark rhythm from the outside, we have our own internal clock that guides us and makes us sensitive or not to stimuli. This complex internal system controls the production of hormones and neurotransmitters. If we have not heavily and invasively altered our natural rhythms, we can easily understand how to respect our circadian rhythms, welcome drowsiness when it comes naturally and perceive the desire to be activated when needed and we consider it useful.

The circadian rhythm has a functioning which is regulated by the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus in the brain. These cells respond to the signals of light and shadow from the surrounding environment perceived by the eyes through the optic nerve. The light stimuli then initiate signals from the SCN to other parts of the central nervous system (CNS). Basically our circadian clock runs on three-hour cycles:

  • between 6 and 9 in the morning the cortisol increases and the body moves towards its activation after sleep;
  • between 9 and 12, cortisol peaks and we concentrate, work hard and perform better;
  • between 12 and 15 the body needs to introduce new energy in the form of foods and food combinations that are right for us;
  • between 15 and 18 the body temperature rises, the heart and lungs can pump to the maximum and physical exercise is done at its best and with the best results;
  • between 6pm and 9pm you slow down, you don’t have to introduce too many calories and it becomes pleasant to engage in creative situations, moments of relaxation and leisure or creating new ideas;
  • between 9 pm and midnight melatonin is produced, which induces sleep, the body produces less heat and it would be important to keep away from electronic devices;
  • between midnight and 3 am, melatonin is at its maximum, you can rest in the right and nutritious way;
  • between 3 and 6 the body temperature is at a minimum, we completely regenerate and we prepare to wake up.

These are reference times, a lot depends on the individual and on habits, but they must be taken into consideration for a basic rhythm.

3 tips on how to know when to play sports

First of all you need to listen to yourself and not force yourself, but to understand when to do sports, you can resort to these indications.

Evaluate meals

If you don’t have an instinctive urge to move, perhaps you should reevaluate your calorie intake. Doing little movement or exceeding complex and simple sugars unloads the body and does not allow you to give your best or even feel the stimulus to move. Try to dedicate a few days to evaluating the diet you are carrying out or what you put into the body day after day. Do not force yourself, do not rush the digestive process and understand what are the foods that weigh you down.

Vary often

To better understand your rhythms, you don’t have to keep doing the things you’ve always done. This does not mean upsetting everything, but starting to do things that have never been done, introducing new habits and alarms, increasing the physical workload, decreasing the calories consumed and playing sports with other people or with music or in total silence and alone. Lighten dinner, enrich breakfast, add snacks, increase the variations of exercises, introduce multi-joint ones, these and many other tricks will allow you to fully explore the immense horizon of personal choices regarding how and when to play sports.

Don’t go to sleep late

This advice also applies to people who fuel late in the evening. Going to sleep late makes you lose precious energy to use during the day. It would also be advisable to avoid intense physical exercise before going to bed or in any case after 20.00. Always try to respect the phase in which you approach sleep and dreams, avoiding to stimulate the nervous system too much and creating a bad distribution between orthosympathetic and parasympathetic work. In other words, try not to activate just as your body prepares to gather the energies to use them the next day.

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