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Do Sunny Mornings Make For a Better Workout?

It’s hard to not be happy during a beautiful, sunny day. Not only do the UV rays help our mental state, but they physically make us feel better too. Well, now we know it is no longer just a feeling. 

“Light is a very, very powerful signal to the brain,” says Phyllis Zee, M.D., associate director of the Center for Sleep & Circadian Biology at Northwestern University. “It was meant to be that way: We live in a light/dark cycle that influences our circadian rhythm, which regulates our performance.” 

Although we don’t scientifically know if light exactly improves workout performance, some fitness professionals personally prefer doing their session under direct sunlight. It all comes down to alertness. The more alert you are, the better your muscle strength tends to be. It just so happens that broad exposure to natural sunlight increases alertness- coincidence? It’s hard to say. 

According to the experts, “The scientific data is not conclusive. Is it better to work out in light or in darkness? We don’t know the answer,” says Walter R. Thompson, Ph.D., FACSM, Regents' Professor and Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research at Georgia State University.

However, there are a few things science has figured out for us. Like, I mentioned before, light increases alertness, so it makes sense that if there is more bright light out, you will naturally want to run or workout more. Blue/green wavelengths affect the brain differently than other types of light, causing you to feel more energetic. Blue light is best found in the morning and early afternoon, so this could be an optimal time to get your workout on.

This blue, morning light also might be correlated to lower body mass indexes, according to Zee. “Blue light alters metabolism,” says Zee. This accusation leads Zee to further believe that light actually may suppress the appetite, which may correspond to it also affecting workout performance. 

However, just like how blue light invigorates, red/orange light calms. Due to the soothing effect that this light spreads, it is a great time to do a more pastoral workout routine, such as yoga. You will see this light starting to set in around late-afternoon, when your body begins to naturally wind down. 

So, although the scientific evidence doesn’t point to a specific answer on whether light creates a more efficient workout environment, there is definite evidence that natural, morning sunlight spikes energy levels and decreases appetite. The reddish light of the late afternoon causes a drop in energy, preparing the body for bedtime. Judging by that information, I don’t think a long run in the sun would do any harm. 

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