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Int J Obes (Lond). 2019 Jul 9. doi: 10.1038/s41366-019-0409-x. [Epub ahead of print]

The effects of exercise session timing on weight loss and components of energy balance: midwest exercise trial 2.

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Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA.
Division of Epidemiology and Genetics, Metabolic Epidemiology Branch, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD, USA.
Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism, and Diabetes, Anschutz Medical Campus, University of Colorado Aurora, Aurora, CO, USA.
Department of Internal Medicine, The University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, KS, USA.
Division of Geriatric Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, CO, USA.
Eastern Colorado VA Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Center, Denver, CO, USA.



Circadian physiology has been linked to body weight regulation and obesity. To date, few studies have assessed the association between exercise timing and weight related outcomes. The aim of this secondary analysis was to explore the impact of exercise timing (i.e., 24 h clock time of exercise session) on weight loss and components of energy balance.


Overweight/obese (BMI 25.0-39.9 kg/m2), physically inactive, young adults (~51% female) completed a 10-month supervised exercise program (400 or 600 kcal/session for 5 days/week) or served as non-exercise controls (CON). Participants were categorized based on the time of day in which they completed exercise sessions (Early-Ex: >50% of sessions completed between 7:00 and 11:59 am; (n = 21), Late-Ex: >50% of sessions completed between 3:00 and 7:00 pm; (n = 25), Sporadic-Ex: <50% of sessions completed in any time category; (n = 24), and CON; (n = 18)). Body weight, energy intake (EI; digital photography), and non-exercise physical activity (NEPA; accelerometer) were assessed at baseline, 3.5, 7, and 10 months. Total daily energy expenditure (TDEE; doubly labeled water), was assessed at baseline and 10 months.


At month 10, weight loss was significantly greater in both Early-EX (-7.2 ± 1.2%; p < 0.001) and Sporadic-EX (- 5.5 ± 1.2%; p = 0.01) vs CON (+0.5 ± 1.0%), and Early-EX vs Late-EX (-2.1 ± 1.0%; p < 0.001). There were no between group differences for change in TDEE, EI, and non-exercise energy expenditure (P > 0.05). A significant group × time interaction (p = 0.02) was observed for NEPA (counts/min), however, after adjusting for multiple comparisons, group effects were no longer significant.


Despite minimal differences in components of energy balance, Early-EX lost significantly more weight compared with Late-Ex. Although the mechanisms are unclear, the timing of exercise may be important for body weight regulation.


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