We human beings might have stark differences among us. But one thing that we all can relate to is the desire for a constant routine. We thrive from having consistency and knowing what to expect each and every day. Whether or not we’d like to admit it. But what are the best times to do some of the healthiest activities? We spoke to a number of experts to help us set a schedule for everything from eating to mediating.
As it turns out, there’s a good reason for our desire for a routine. It has to do with our internal clock, also known as our circadian rhythm. “What time you wake up, when you eat, go to the bathroom, and when to go to sleep again are simple unconscious actions that are tightly controlled by hormone levels circulating in the blood,” explains Demetris Elia D.C.
Elia is a mobile chiropractor and functional medicine provider in Dallas, Texas. “Without a sense of time, our bodies would not know when to wake up, when to eat or when to go to sleep.”
What are the best times to shut off the phone? One of the biggest influencing factors when it comes to our circadian rhythm is light, specifically blue light, Dr. Elia notes.
“Blue light is one of the frequencies that is emitted by the sun’s rays and stimulates our pineal gland, a small part of the brain, to suppress melatonin levels,” he says. “When melatonin levels are high, we are sleepy and when they are low, we tend to be wide awake.” When we’re exposed to natural light, it signals to our body to wake up, and when the light starts to disappear from the sky and it gets dark, it signals to our body that it’s time to sleep.
Just as our body wants to sleep at regular hours, it also wants to eat at regular hours. “We crave nutrient-rich food at regular hours and intervals to give the brain a constant supply of nutrients and energy to be able to stay clear all day,” says Annika Sörensen, M.D., Swedish Medical Doctor specializing in family medicine.
It’s true that routines can vary by the individual. But it’s also true there are certain times of the day where the body can benefit most from doing a specific activity. Doctors share the best time to do some of the most basic activities you do every day for optimal health.
The Best Times of Day to Eat
We all need food to survive, and most of us consume that food in three large meals throughout the day. When it comes to eating, consistency of mealtimes is key. The best time to eat breakfast, according to Jenelle Kim, D.A.C.M, L.Ac. the Founder and Chief Formulator of JBK Wellness Labs, is 7 a.m., lunch is best consumed around noon and dinner around 6 p.m. “This promotes a healthy digestive system and makes sure that your body is being nourished properly throughout the day,” she says. “Of course, the exact times can be adjusted according to your lifestyle; although eating too late in the evening is not ideal for proper digestion and can affect sleep habits.”
Taking your supplements
In general, there’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to the timing of taking certain supplements. However many people find that taking them after dinner is most sensible. “Some supplements, especially iron supplements, are not as optimally digested when paired with beverages like coffee and tea,” says Caitlin Carr, R.D., registered dietitian. “Consider taking mineral supplements in the evening, when such stimulating beverages are well digested.”
Most doctors and fitness trainers alike will advise you to exercise at any given time throughout the day. Just as long as you actually commit and stick to that timeframe during each exercise session. However, research points to added health benefits of working out in the a.m. hours. It offers fewer distractions, since you’re getting your workout in before you even start your day. And one study published in The Journal of Obesity linked morning exercise to healthier food choices made throughout the day. “Through exercise our body becomes revitalized for our day ahead,” says Dr. Kim. “Exercise promotes circulation, improves mood, helps deliver oxygen and nutrients to your tissues, and helps your cardiovascular system work more efficiently.”
Carr recommends relaxing in the evening hours with some kind of reflective or contemplative activity. That can be journaling, going for a walk, or recalling the day with a loved one. “Relaxing in the evening can promote an early night sleep to prepare for the next healthful day,” she says. “This way you can recognize how you have contributed to your surroundings (i.e. job, family, neighborhood, community) and how your day has affected you,” she says.
If you’re lucky enough to fit naptime into your schedule, rest assured that you’re giving your body what it needs. Even if it’s brief. “Your brain and body need a reset and recharge like no other time in history,” says Michelle Thielen, Certified Yoga Therapist and author of Stretching Your Faith. Sörensen agrees, adding that just a short nap of 5-15 minutes can rewire your brain miraculously. There’s no fixed time for when you need to take a nap. The best times to take a nap are in the early afternoons so that it’s not too late in day to interrupt your ability to fall asleep at night.
Going to the bathroom
When you gotta go, you gotta go. But even when it comes to such a basic function like going to the bathroom, timing matters. Dr. Elia recommends trying to go to the toilet at the same time every day. “Our intestines have their own routine and if you keep them happy, they will keep you happy,” she adds.
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According to Thielen, Meditation and prayer is best done in the morning—within an hour window of waking up. “This sets the tone of your day as well as calms the mind and nervous system in preparing for the day ahead,” she says. “During this time is a great opportunity to say out loud affirmations or mantras.” Example: Say out loud, “I will not react today out of emotion but of love and kindness.” This, she explains, will help you come back to hearing your voice when needed throughout the day.
The Best Times to Perform Healthy Activities – In Conclusion
Can you stick to these schedules when it comes to healthy activities? You’ll never know if you don’t try!
Jenn Sinrich is a freelance editor, writer and content strategist located in Boston, Massachusetts. She received her BA in journalism from Northeastern University and has more than a decade of experience working for a myriad of female-focused publications including SELF, Parents, Women’s Health, BRIDES, Martha Stewart Weddings and more. When she’s not putting pen to paper (or, really, fingers to keyboard), she’s enjoying the most precious moments in life with her husband and daughter.