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What is the Best Time of Day to Exercise?

What is the Best Time of Day to Exercise?

Finding time to exercise can be challenging. Aside from internal motivation, there are work and school schedules, social engagements, and a handful of other priorities to work around. But, when should you fit in a workout? Explore the benefits of morning, afternoon, and evening workouts to figure out the best time to hit the gym. 

Benefits of Morning Workouts

One more hour of sleep or kickstarting your day with a workout? Here are a few reasons to get out of bed and get in your training first thing in the morning!

You’re Less Likely to Talk Yourself Out of It

After a long and stressful day, it can be a challenge to get motivated for weight training or a cardio workout. Food, the couch, family time, and a nap often sound much better than exercise. However, when you plan to head to the gym as soon as you wake up, there likely aren’t as many motivational conflicts to change your mind, other than a love of sleep and the snooze button.

Efficient Workouts

Early morning workouts force us to get in and get out. We typically have a short window of time to get the workout in, get showered, and head out to start our day. So, with that mindset, you can ensure your workouts are effective and efficient.

Miss the Crowd and Socializers

Most early morning gym-goers are there to get in their workout, not to socialize. They have things to do and places to be. So, chit-chat is minimized in an attempt to complete their workout promptly and get on with their day. In addition, commercial gyms are typically busier in the evening hours. So, if you like fewer people and less socializing, morning workouts just might be the right fit for you.

Might Burn More Fat

This is a controversial one. Some research shows that morning exercise, in a fasted state, burns more fat (1). However, other research says fasting may reduce the level of intensity which reduces overall calorie and fat burn and may even reduce muscle mass (2). Fat loss is typically a result of burning more calories over time. So, although the science goes both ways, sticking to a consistent workout regime is key if your goal is fat or weight loss. And, it is important to make sure that you have enough energy to work out at the proper intensity. 

Benefits of Mid-Day and Evening Workouts

If morning workouts aren’t for you, you may like the benefits of mid-day or evening workouts!

De-stress

A mid-day break from work can be a great way to give your brain a break, re-focus, and finish out the rest of the workday strong. And, exercising after work can have just as much of a positive impact. Post-work exercise can help you reduce stress, unwind, and reset. 

Improved Performance

Core temperature of the body can affect the quality of exercise. Muscles are typically warmer in the afternoon and evening in comparison to the morning. Because the body is warmer and more awake, it may lead to increased performance in the gym (3).

You May Burn More Calories

By the afternoon and evening hours, your body is warmed up and you have consumed enough calories to provide you energy for a solid workout. This can translate to an ability to perform higher intensity workouts, which can lead to more calories burned. 

May Improve Sleep

For so long, many believed that evening exercise would have a negative impact on your circadian rhythm, or sleep pattern. However, one study suggests the opposite may be true, that evening workouts bring on better quality sleep than for those who exercise in the morning (4). Though it is not recommended to workout out right before sleep (workout, shower, bed) as it may negatively affect your ability to fall asleep. Be sure to give your body time to wind down before bed.

So, When is the BEST Time to Exercise?

Is one of these times better than the other? The answer is no. Get in your physical activity when it works for you and stay consistent. Consistency in exercise is more important than the time of day (5). And, one study even suggests your body may adapt and perform best at the time of day you exercise most consistently (6).

So, ultimately the most important factor is sticking to an exercise routine. Whatever time of day you’re motivated to workout is the best time of day to exercise. 

Do you love learning about health and fitness? Do you want to take your health and fitness knowledge to the next level? Check out ISSA’s Personal Training Certification course and get started learning about the topics that interest you most!

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References

References

  1. Gonzalez JT, et al., “Breakfast and exercise contingently affect postprandial metabolism and energy balance in physically active males”. Br J Nutr. 2013 August. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23340006
  2. Schoenfeld, Brad. “Does Cardio After an Overnight Fast Maximize Fat Loss?” Strength and Conditioning Journal. February 2011. https://journals.lww.com/nsca-scj/Fulltext/2011/02000/Does_Cardio_After_an_Overnight_Fast_Maximize_Fat.3.aspx
  3. Racinais S. “Different effects of heat exposure upon exercise performance in the morning and afternoon”. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2010 October. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21029194
  4. Buman MP, et al., “Does nighttime exercise really disturb sleep?” Results from the 2013 National Sleep Foundation Sleep in America Poll. Sleep Med. 2014 July. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24933083
  5. Schumacher, Leah, et al., “Relationship of Consistency in Timing of Exercise Performance and Exercise Levels Among Successful Weight Loss Maintainers.” Obesity A Research Journal. 2019 July. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/oby.22535
  6. Chtourou H, Souissi N. “The effect of training at a specific time of day: a review.” J Strength Cond Res. 2012 July. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22531613

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