Is Morning Really the Best Time to Work Out?

Greatist
by Greatist
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Is Morning Really the Best Time to Work Out?

While some people are up at the crack of dawn to lace up their running shoes, others can’t fathom a workout before noon. Finding the perfect time to exercise is as much about personal preference as it is physiology. Exercise is supposed to feel good—but if muscles are tight in the morning or working out too late disrupts sleep, it can feel counterproductive.

Afternoon Advantages

Plenty of people tout the benefits of early morning sweat sessions, but if you can’t fit in a workout before noon, don’t sweat it. Research suggests the body could adapt to regular gym dates, so if we hit the weight room every day at 4 p.m., eventually we might perform better at that time than at any other time of day. These findings are similar to earlier research, which suggests that sticking to a specific workout time can result in better performance, higher oxygen consumption, and lower perceived exhaustion. But scheduling a workout is more complicated than choosing a number on the clock.

Your body’s core temperature is an important factor in determining the quality of exercise. A cold body leaves muscles stiff, inefficient, and susceptible to sprains, whereas higher body temperatures leave muscles more flexible. Body temperature typically increases throughout the day, so muscle strength and endurance may peak in the late afternoon, when body temperature is highest. The afternoon is also when reaction time is quickest and heart rate and blood pressure are lowest, all of which combine to improve performance and reduce the overall likelihood of injury.

Hormone levels are also important in determining optimal workout time. Testosterone is important for muscle growth and strength, in ladies and gents. And the body produces more testosterone during late afternoon resistance training than it does during morning workouts. Plus, the stress hormone cortisol, which aids in the storage of fat and reduction of muscle tissue, peaks in the morning and decreases throughout the day and during exercise. But early birds, take heart: Morning workouts can be successful too.

Morning Perks

It’s sometimes easier to keep a morning workout routine consistent. Afternoon and evening workouts are more likely to conflict with other responsibilities as the day progresses. Plus a full day’s work can take a serious toll on willpower—which can overcome any gym-goer’s best intentions.

Morning workouts might also be a good option for stress-free snoozing. Since exercise increases heart rate and body temperature, working out too late in the evening (generally after 8 p.m.) may disrupt sleep, while one study showed that working out at 7 a.m. (compared to 1 p.m. or 7 p.m.) may help people sleep more soundly at night.

Finally, one study found that 45 minutes of moderate morning exercise (like walking briskly on the treadmill) helped curb appetite directly after working out. Research also shows that people can burn up to 20 percent more body fat exercising on an empty stomach—much easier to do first thing in the a.m. than at night.

The Bottom Line

In the end, it’s most important to find a realistic, consistent workout schedule, no matter what the time. If working out in the morning is best for your schedule, just make sure to warm up muscles that might be cold and tight from sleep. And to keep afternoon workouts consistent, treat them as unbreakable appointments, find a workout buddy, and keep a gym bag in the car or office to minimize excuses.

Read more from our friends at Greatest:

Morning Workout Hacks
How Often Should I Strength Train?
An Easy Morning Workout

About the Author

Greatist
Greatist

Greatist helps you find what’s good for you. Not like “eat your vegetables, they’re good for you.” More like “here are some choices you can realistically make, stick with, and feel really good about.” Because in the end, you don’t have to choose between being happy and being healthy; they’re really the same thing.

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10 responses to “Is Morning Really the Best Time to Work Out?”

  1. Avatar Deborah says:

    Hello this is a little different for me to make comments but this my second day and so far so good . I don’t have buddie to work out but I have done workout by myself and at the gym but I get up very early for work and it still dark

    • Avatar Motivator girl:) says:

      Haha don’t worry guys! The fact that you all even WANT to work out puts you ahead of a great many couch potatoes!! I am totally a night owl and love working out at night. Keep in mind, science is not truth. It may have an educated opinion but that doesn’t make it right for you. You seriously just need to do what’s right for you and your schedule. I usually am at the gym from somewhere between 5-7pm to when they close at 10pm. I have found that it helps me sleep, and I hate getting up early and sweating so early in the am. Haha brings back to many boot camp memories! Just be consistent! Consistency is key. Getting to know the people that work there will help you feel like the gym is part of your life. Try to stick to the same gym at about the same time and in about two weeks you will begin to recognize the regulars (which is cool:)). Just don’t ever give up!! Tell yourself you only have to do 12minutes on the treadmill (just enough to get your hr up) and it usually will turn into a longer workout:) Learn to love it. Enjoy designing your body to a healthier you!:)

  2. Avatar Fourester says:

    When I only ran about 30 minutes per day, I loved morning runs-fewer cars, less windy, and cooler in the summer. I never warmed up (that’s what the first mile is for, right?) But now some of my runs are an hour to nearly 2 hours, plus a 15 minute warmup. As a diabetic, it is not a good idea to run on a fasted stomach. I cook breakfast every morning (can’t do cereal) and need to wait at least an hour before exercise. That would mean getting up at 3:30 AM on my long run days. So, I run immediately after work. It works well too, except I sometimes don’t get dinner prepped and eaten until nearly 9 PM.

  3. Avatar G Nice says:

    I workout at 5 AM because I have the rest of the day to myself.

    • Avatar Martin Naparstek says:

      At what time do you go to bed?? I tend to go to bed around 12, due that I finish work late, have dinner and some time for myself. I tried to workout at 5-6am, but I can’t…And by 7am gotta leave for work.

  4. Avatar Pratik says:

    I tried to workout daily but its really difficult without some motivation. I tried some products like fitbit but it was a waste.

    Could you suggest some gadgets like fitbit.

    • Avatar Victoria Rejuney says:

      i have a misfit shine, but they have cheaper products by the same company. you tap it and it lights up to show your progress. if all the lights around it light up, then you have reached your activity goal for the day. i started using it maybe a few weeks ago. i also have a horrible time being motivated. it helps to get rid of distractions, so i deactivated facebook which keeps me sitting and staring at the computer. i bought a wii and a wii fit to play exercise/interactive games. i think it might also help to find something that you actually enjoy doing. i enjoy swimming, so i’m trying to get this gym membership set up so i can use their pool.

  5. Avatar Victoria Rejuney says:

    i exercise sporadically throughout the day. sometimes i can get in a 30 min workout before work. sometimes i bike to work instead of driving. i bought a mini cycle, which cost me under 25 bucks to put underneath my desk to peddle on here and there. sometimes i’ll exercise in 10 minute periods. in the summer i try to hit the pool. been going to the park and riding the bike around. trying out the paddle boat and canoe rentals. going to amusement parks. bought a wii fit. trying to find different ways to exercise that are also fun.

  6. Avatar hmc says:

    So, evening workouts are useless? That’s the only time I have…

  7. Avatar Tammie says:

    We have been walking in the evening after work. It’s a great stress reliever after a long, crazy day. My daughter in law keeps me motivated! Lol.. We have been walking 3-4 miles daily for about 5 weeks now. We feel great!

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