The Best Time To Work Out? This Is It
For some people, a regular workout routine is about relieving stress and feeling happier. For others, exercise is a way to achieve a better night’s sleep, greater confidence, or feel more energetic during the day. Perhaps you’re strength training to see your muscles grow or change your body composition, or following a yoga program to improve your mind-body connection
There are so many benefits of exercise, but regardless of what motivates you to get up and moving, it’s understandable if you want to reap as many of those rewards as you can. This might leave you wondering, when is the best time of day to work out?
Whenever you can squeeze in some exercise or feel your best is going to be good for you, but there can be pros and cons to working out at different times of day. Read on to discover the benefits of exercising in the morning, noon and night – and how to find the best time to suit your body clock, fitness goals and lifestyle.
When is the best time of day to exercise for YOU?
We all have individual preferences, unique routines and energy patterns, and the bottom line is, whenever YOU prefer to exercise is the best time for you. The best exercise routine and the one you’ll reap the most benefits from is the one you can stick to long-term, and finding something sustainable is far more important than what the clock says.
If you’re a morning person, feel energetic as soon as you wake up, love getting your workout done first thing, or the morning is simply the only time you can make it work - morning workouts it is!
If you need extra sleep, find your athletic performance is better later in the day, or simply enjoy finishing your day with a good Sweat session to let off some steam, an afternoon or evening workout is probably more your style.
Think about your body’s natural energy and sleep patterns, your daily schedule and responsibilities, and when you feel the most motivated. These factors will help you pinpoint your best time of day to work out! The most important thing is finding a time that works for you and creating healthy habits that make your body feel good, but different times of day do come with different benefits, so let’s dive in!
The benefits of morning exercise
Love the idea of getting your workout done and dusted before your day begins? Give a morning workout a whirl and you’ll reap the benefits of plenty of feel-good endorphins.
Early birds may burn more
According to a 2022 research article published in Frontiers in Physiology, the ideal time of day is hard to determine since there are simultaneous effects on health and performance, but if losing weight is a goal for you, morning workouts could be a winning option.
The researchers followed 27 women and 20 men as they completed a 12-week exercise program, concluding that morning exercise reduced abdominal fat and blood pressure.
Another 2019 study published in the International Journal of Obesity explored the impact of exercise timing on weight loss with a 10-month supervised exercise program. Despite minimal differences in components of energy balance, those who worked out between 7 am and midday lost more weight.
But remember, while hopping on the scales regularly might seem like a good way to measure your progress and stay motivated, numbers can sometimes be deceptive. If you’re thinking about saying “screw the scales” like Sweat Trainer Kelsey Wells has, read this article.
Morning exercise could have a positive effect on your body clock
Want to feel more energised in the morning and tired at night? A 2019 study published in the Journal of Physiology found exercising first thing could help shift your body clock earlier.
The research found morning exercise may help shift your circadian rhythm so your body feels more alert in the morning and more sleepy when you’re ready to go to bed.
Exercising in the morning can also improve the quality of your sleep. A 2014 study published in Vascular Health and Risk Management found people who performed aerobic exercise at 7 am spent more time in the deep sleep cycle – which is the most restorative sleep phase – than those who did cardio at 1 or 7 pm.
Yes, waking up early may be a huge struggle at first, but think about how good it will feel when morning exercise becomes second nature and you stop hitting that snooze button.
You’ll get your workout out of the way
For many morning exercisers, this is the biggest benefit of all. Ever had the best of intentions to exercise in the evening, only to have work pile up, life admin that must be done, family duties you can’t ignore, find yourself stuck in traffic, or you simply feel exhausted at the end of a long day?
When you prioritise exercising in the morning, you don’t even have to worry about those competing responsibilities and distractions throwing off your evening workout game. You’re already done!
Morning exercise could boost your energy for the day
A good old endorphin rush from moving your body is a great way to start the day, and this feel-good, focused energy can carry into the rest of your day.
Research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that a morning bout of moderate-intensity exercise improves working memory or cognitive function!
Morning exercise: Things to be mindful of
- Getting up early can mean losing sleep and feeling more tired overall
- If you exercise first thing before eating, you might feel weak or low in energy
- If you’re tired or groggy during a morning workout, your performance, focus and coordination may be impaired
- If it’s cold in the morning or you wake up feeling stiff, you might need a longer warm-up before you start your workout
The benefits of afternoon and evening workouts
When it comes to workout timing, some people find the later in the day, the better. In the afternoon or evening, you may be feeling more warmed up, you’ve eaten some food, and are far more mentally alert than you were when you first woke up. Here are three great reasons to workout in the afternoon or evening.
Performance tends to peak later in the day
You may find you have more energy and focus to squat, jump, lift and stretch when you schedule your workout in the afternoon or evening.
According to a 2012 review published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, the effect of time of day on aerobic performance has been well established, with peak performance being in the late afternoon.
Another article from 2020 says that most studies published to date have shown peak performance is better between 4 pm and 8 pm for short duration max-effort exercise such as jumps, sprinting and muscle contractions.
The same 2022 study mentioned earlier which concluded morning exercise can be better for reducing abdominal fat and blood pressure, found that evening exercise actually enhanced muscular performance.
Exercising when your body temperature is warmer in the afternoon and evening also has practical benefits: a cold body means stiffer muscles that are more susceptible to strains, while a warmer body means you’ll be able to get into the groove faster. (You’ll still need to warm up though!)
You're more alert
If you love the idea of a morning workout but feel like you end up going through the motions still half-asleep, you may want to switch things up and exercise when you feel more alert (and when you’ve had a few meals to fuel you!).
Your muscle gains might be bigger
One 2016 randomised controlled trial spent 24 weeks investigating strength and endurance training in the morning versus evening on performance and muscle growth. The results indicated that training in the evenings may lead to larger gains in muscle mass, but only when the training period exceeded 12 weeks.
It can be a great way to destress
Need to let off steam after a stressful day? An evening sweat could be exactly what you need to sweat your way to a better mood and get yourself ready for a good night’s sleep.
The satisfaction of pushing through a tough routine or hitting a personal best can release a flood of feel-good brain chemicals – otherwise known as endorphins, serotonin and dopamine!
After you’ve blitzed through your evening workout, you might even find that stuff that worried you that morning no longer seems like a big deal.
Afternoon and evening workouts: Things to be mindful of
- For some people, exercising later in the day can have a detrimental effect on sleep, while for others it can have a positive impact! One 2018 review even found that evening exercise helped improve sleep measures, as long as the exercise was completed over an hour before bed. Experiment with your workout timing and see how it affects your sleep.
- If you’ve had a stressful day or are exhausted, an intense evening workout may add more stress to your system. On those days, opt for lower intensity movement or take a rest day
- It’s important to nourish your body with a good meal after a workout, but not everyone feels hungry straight after exercise. If it takes a while for your appetite to return, it’s best to avoid exercising too late in the evening so you’re not sleeping on a full stomach.
It’s important to find your own best time to exercise
Whether you exercise morning, noon or night, the benefits of regular exercise are indisputable: increased stamina and strength, improved blood pressure, stronger bones and muscles, improved sleep and plenty of happy hormones to keep your brain at its best.
More important than choosing the right time of day based on science is finding a time that works best for you and your lifestyle. After all, it’s no use forcing yourself to exercise in the morning if you're half asleep or hungry, or attempting an evening workout if it’s going to mess up your sleep pattern.
The best time to get your body moving is whatever time works for YOU. This could mean sticking to a regular time each day or a mix of morning, noon and night workouts depending on your schedule, health and mood.
* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.