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Gone are the days of warnings against exercising too close to bedtime. Research conducted by exercise scientists at the University of South Carolina in 2006 joins a host of studies contradicting the notion that rigorous exercise before sleep can be disruptive to rest. In fact, for most people, quality of sleep improves following an evening jog or workout, according to a report on the research published in "Runner's World." For those jogging at night in urban, suburban or rural environments, the advantages may outweigh the drawbacks, especially when training preparations and sensible safety precautions are taken into account.
Jogging at night is not only more convenient for those with daytime commitments to work and family, but it may also offer performance benefits for athletes. Because of certain physiological factors-including body temperature and the release of key energy-metabolizing hormones-some joggers may find they function better at night, according to Shawn D. Youngstedt, Ph.D., professor of exercise science at the University of South Carolina. In addition, nighttime excursions involve clearer air and less passing traffic. Such peace and quiet present a starlit serenity that evening joggers often appreciate in the wake of hectic days.
Visibility is reduced at night, so joggers experience a limited line of sight and may not spot obvious pitfalls that lie ahead, like uneven surfaces or ice on the path. Drivers also have a harder time spotting runners in the dark along roadways. Besides issues with vision, the disadvantages of night jogging also extend to the body's physical limitations after dark. Following a busy day, the body may be sapped of energy, and a lack of coordination could make joggers more susceptible to tripping or falling.
Before rushing headlong into a night jog, give your body time to adjust to the differences, particularly if you're used to daytime running. A person's sense of balance is different after dark, adventure racer Mona Merrill told "Runner's World." Take a few short test jogs in extremely familiar territory before branching out. Even familiar places can look and feel different at night. Also consider purchasing a headlamp or handheld flashlight with different settings, so your path is always illuminated.
Safety in numbers applies here, especially at night. Jogging with a friend or a group of athletes guarantees greater visibility and minimizes the chance of any outside threats. Whenever possible, select a well-lit and predictable route. "Fitness Magazine" also recommends jogging against traffic and wearing reflective gear to ensure that oncoming drivers can see you. Though it may be tempting to enjoy a soundtrack to your evening run, it's best to skip the headphones so you can listen for potential danger.