Morning vs. Evening: When’s the Best Time to Work Out?

exercise

It seems like there are always new rules for diet and exercise: just when you’ve figured out a diet and routine that works for you, new evidence comes along and changes everything. Now, researchers are debating what the best time of day for exercise may be.

The good news is that the best time to work out is whenever you can squeeze it in—some exercise is better than none at all. However, there are certain advantages and drawbacks to each time of day.

Think of this as a guide to help you find the right workout time for you. For instance, if you’re having trouble consistently exercising, you’re more likely to stick to a plan when you schedule morning exercise. Afternoon and evening exercise is helpful for resisting bad habits and banishing stress.

So, which time is right for you? Read on to find out.

Morning exercise

Morning exercise offers a lot of benefits—it might actually edge out other times. (Again, only the fact that you’re exercising counts.) It’s especially good for people who have trouble waking up in the mornings or sticking to an exercise schedule. You’re less likely to procrastinate and try to cram it in at the end of the day, only to be too tired later.

Generally, morning exercise is helpful for keeping you alert, productive and focused throughout the day. If you wait to eat breakfast until after your workout, your body may burn more calories in its “fasted” state.

Finally, if you’re having trouble establishing a steady sleep schedule, morning exercise can help regulate your circadian rhythms. Your body will shift to become more alert in the mornings, and tired in the evenings—giving you the energy you need for the next morning workout.

Of course, there are drawbacks to morning exercise: namely, it takes longer to warm up and reach your physical peak after waking. Most people don’t roll out of bed ready to go for a jog, and if you’re hungry, exercise will exacerbate the problem. No one wants a mid-workout hunger pang to distract them from their exercise.

Morning exercise may also interrupt deep sleep, especially if you rely on an alarm to wake up each morning. This can result in feeling groggy, and eventually turn into chronic fatigue.

In short, if you’re having trouble with sleep, sticking to a workout routine and you want to maximize fat burning, morning exercise might be right for you.

Afternoon and evening exercise

Society’s nine-to-five schedule makes it hard to squeeze in morning exercise, especially if your job involves a commute. Maybe you’re naturally a night owl, and want to use exercise to unwind after work. Afternoon and evening workouts are good for banishing stress and maximizing your performance.

When you first roll out of bed (especially in the winter), your muscles haven’t warmed up yet. You may feel stiff or sore. As the day goes on, your body warms up, becoming more limber. In fact, muscle performance, flexibility and output are all maximized in the evening. Your body also produces more testosterone (key for building muscle) later in the day. If you’re working out to build strength, endurance or flexibility as your main goal, afternoon and evening workouts might be the right choice for you.

Finally, some people find that afternoon and evening exercise is better for their mental health. Exercise can be a physical outlet for stress and anxiety. It’s also an effective way to reduce bad habits, like binge-watching TV or endlessly scrolling through social media.

Drawbacks to afternoon and evening exercise are what you’d expect: some people find that it interferes with their ability to sleep. However, that’s only intense workouts: gentle exercise like yoga and stretching may actually improve your ability to sleep.

If you’re considering an afternoon and evening schedule, make sure it works with your lifestyle. People who save their workouts for later in the day are more likely to put them off. That lack of consistency can seriously impact your health and fitness routine.

The takeaways

Ultimately, any exercise is good at any time of day. If you only have fifteen minutes to walk around the block each morning, that’s better than no exercise at all. However, depending on your goals and schedule, a certain time of day may better enable you to achieve those goals. Follow this guide to find out what works best for your needs, then experiment until you find the right timing.

Staff Writer

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