Alberta Cancer Foundation

Exercise O’Clock: How to Exercise Any Time of Day

Exercise for Cancer

By: Karin Olafson

Illustration by Mateusz Napieralski

It’s perfectly natural for different people to prefer working out at different times of the day. In fact, the time you get your workout in doesn’t matter — what matters is just getting in some movement each day, says Heather Mielke, an exercise specialist with the Lloydminster Primary Care Network and an Exercise for Cancer to Enhance Living Well (EXCEL) instructor since 2020. (EXCEL delivers exercise programming and resources to cancer survivors and thrivers in rural Alberta.)  

“I tell my clients that the best time of day to exercise is whatever works best for them. I often tell people that you are likely to do what you like to do, and you’re likely to do it when you like to do it,” says Mielke.

For individuals going through cancer treatment and tackling cancer-related fatigue, Mielke points out there might be less of a regular workout routine depending on the treatment journey and fluctuating energy levels.

“Individuals going through cancer treatment need to have a bit of flexibility and monitor how they’re feeling. When fatigue is light and there are times of the day that they feel more energetic, they can try to get exercise in then,” says Mielke, adding that this could differ day to day. “Any cancer patient I’ve worked with sees the benefits of the exercise, and once they get going, they find they have better energy and less fatigue.”

Here, Mielke offers tips to help you get moving, regardless of the time of day you like to exercise.

Tips for Early Birds

“If you’re getting up to workout first thing in the morning, lay out your clothes — and maybe even wear your workout clothes to bed,” says Mielke, adding that this day-before preparation minimizes early morning decision-making and means you’re less likely to talk yourself out of the workout.  

Try This: Walk or run Lethbridge’s Oldman River valley parks system

Enjoy a solitary moment before the busyness of the day begins as you walk or run the pedestrian trails through one (or several) of the eight parks that make up this trail system. Highlights along your route include views of the Lethbridge Viaduct, more commonly known as High Level Bridge, the coulees and, of course, the Oldman River.

Tips for Midday Movers

Afternoon exercisers often need to plan their movement around lunchtime. “You need to fuel your body, but your choice of exercise could affect what you eat for lunch. For example, if I was going for a run at two o’clock, a heavy lunch likely won’t sit well,” says Mielke. “If you can’t stomach lunch before you exercise, a snack will give you the energy you need to do the workout.”

Try This: Climb the walls at Calgary’s Bolder Climbing Community

Instead of opting for cardio in the middle of the day, try a lunchtime strength workout at this bouldering gym. Bouldering is similar to rock climbing, except the walls are shorter and there are no ropes. The centre is less busy in the early afternoon than in the evening, so you can tackle different climbing “problems” without the crowds.

Tips for Evening Exercisers

Working out in the evening can be a great way to get the whole family moving and, according to Mielke, “any time you can make it fun, especially if you’ve got kids, they’re more likely to want to participate in the activity.”

Try This: Visit Edmonton’s Meadows Community Recreation Centre

Everyone in the family can find a way to move their body at this facility, which is open well into the evening. Swim a few laps in the 25-metre lane pool, challenge yourself to a group workout class, or get the whole family ice-skating at one of the centre’s rinks.

Tips for Night Owls

“Some people can do an intense workout before bed while others might prefer something quieter that sets the stage for sleep, like yoga,” says Mielke, adding that listening to your body is most important. “There’s no right or wrong way to exercise at night. As long as your nighttime exercise isn’t interrupting your sleep and you’re sticking with your workout routine, it’s working for you.”

Try This: Cross-country skiing at the Canmore Nordic Centre

Skiing under twinkling lights while the snow gently falls is a magical way to get a nighttime workout in. The Canmore Nordic Centre has 6.5 kilometres of illuminated trail for the night skiers, and its warming hut is open daily until 9 p.m.

Try an Exercise Snack

Another way to fit some movement into your day is to incorporate what Mielke calls “exercise snacks.” Sprinkle little bits of activity throughout your day, like taking the stairs, going for a short lunchtime walk or doing some squats at your desk.