Regular exercise is essential for good health, but can the timing of your physical activity make a difference? Recent research suggests that for individuals dealing with obesity, evening workouts may offer the most benefits, reducing the risk of heart disease and premature death.

Researchers from the University of Sydney, Australia, made the findings based on a large-scale observational study involving around 30,000 people over almost 8 years. The study was published in the journal Diabetes Care.

The team observed the lowest risk of premature death and cardiovascular disease-related mortality in those participants who did the majority of their aerobic moderate to vigorous physical activity between 6 p.m. and midnight.

"Due to a number of complex societal factors, around two in three Australians have excess weight or obesity which puts them at a much greater risk of major cardiovascular conditions such as heart attacks and stroke, and premature death," study author Dr. Angelo Sabag said in a news release.

"Exercise is by no means the only solution to the obesity crisis, but this research does suggest that people who can plan their activity into certain times of the day may best offset some of these health risks," Sabag said.

The study participants were over 40 years of age living with obesity, of whom 2,995 participants had Type 2 diabetes. The participants' physical activities were measured using a wrist accelerometer worn consistently for 24 hours a day throughout 7 days at the beginning of the study.

Based on the time during which the participants undertook the majority of their aerobic moderate to vigorous physical activity, they were then categorized into morning and afternoon groups.

Using health data from the National Health Services and National Records of Scotland, researchers followed up on the participant's health trajectory for 7.9 years. During this period 1,425 deaths, 3,980 cardiovascular events, and 2,162 microvascular disfunction events were reported.

The study also made another interesting finding: the frequency of moderate to vigorous physical activity done in the evening, particularly in short bursts lasting three minutes or more, has greater significance than the overall daily amount of physical activity.

Earlier studies have shown a strong association between moderate to vigorous physical activity for 3 minutes or more and better glucose control, and reduced cardiovascular disease risk compared with shorter (non-aerobic) bouts.

However, according to the joint first author Dr. Matthew Ahmadi, the current findings are significant as the study did not just track structured exercise but focused on tracking continuous aerobic moderate to vigorous physical activity in bouts of 3 minutes or more.

"We didn't discriminate on the kind of activity we tracked, it could be anything from power walking to climbing the stairs, but could also include structured exercise such as running, occupational labor or even vigorously cleaning the house," Dr. Ahmadi said.