Is There an ‘Ideal’ Time of Day to Work Out?

Is the best time to exercise in the morning or evening? The answer really depends on who you ask, where you work and what type of hours you keep. Here are the popular arguments for each time of day.

The morning workout

Morning workouts are often the easiest for people to stick to before work, which is why our gyms are often busiest at this time. While energy and performance tends to be higher in the afternoon, this may mean we have to work harder when exercising in the morning. For the women in one study, a morning workout meant that they weren’t as focused on food afterwards, so it could also mean you eat healthier during the day. Morning exercise also appears to have benefits for sleep too; one study of 1,000 adults found that those who exercised early reported a better quality of sleep than those who exercised at other times of the day.

The afternoon workout

Most people are still at work in the early afternoon, which frees the gym up nicely if you can plan your workout sessions for this time. There may also be some bodily benefits to working out later in the day. Generally speaking, we tend to have higher energy, strength and speed in the late afternoon. This could be due to our hormonal balances as well as our higher body temperatures later in the day; we tend to be stretchier and more flexible when we’re warm. Our lungs are also operating at a greater efficiency in the afternoons.

The evening workout

An intense weights session can let you release all of the tension from your workday, and there can often be fewer people in the gym in the evenings which gives you greater options for equipment. As a downside, leaving your workout until the end of the day can sometimes mean that you run out of time or energy to allocate to your workout. Studies seem to be inconclusive on whether a late workout close to your bedtime decreases sleep quality, so it’s best to judge this based on your own experiences.

Morning, noon or night won’t each work for everybody. There’s some evidence that our bodies like sticking to a workout routine that fits with our own circadian rhythms, so try to find a time that makes you feel great and then find consistency with your workout times. Really, the best time to train is going to be whenever you can fit it into your lifestyle, as the workout you did is more effective than the workout you missed!