Morning or afternoon – when’s the best time to exercise?
Some people love to be up before the sun, getting their heart pumping and their sweat on before many of us are even out of bed. Others couldn’t think of anything worse, and wouldn’t dream of exercising until well after midday.
Regular physical exercise has numerous proven health benefits – but does it matter what time of the day you exercise? Let’s find out.
Benefits to morning exercise
The early bird catches the worm – but does this apply to exercise? As it turns out, there are many reasons why large numbers of people swear by exercising in the morning:
- Research suggests that willpower is stronger in the morning before it has been eroded by the pressures of the day, meaning that people who choose to exercise early are more likely to stick to their routine and less likely to put it off after the stresses of a busy day.
- Morning exercise has been linked to lower blood pressure, better sleep and greater productivity.
- Exercise in the morning speeds up your metabolism and can improve your ability to burn calories during the day.
- Endorphins released from a morning workout can set you up to feel more positive and energetic all day.
- Morning exercise sets the foundation for further healthy choices throughout the day. After exercising early, people are more likely to make healthier food choices.
- You get exercise out of the way early in the day and have the rest of the evening after work to relax and spend as you please.
- Your body is fresh and prepared for exercise after a good night’s sleep.
- You’ll be surrounded by other like-minded and driven people who also like to exercise in the morning, which can inspire you to keep going.
- People who exercise in the morning tend to be more consistent. It sets you up by building positive habits into your life.
- Exercising before you eat helps you burn more fat, making it the best choice for weight loss.
- Research suggests that morning exercisers may have less of an appetite during the day, which can help prevent weight gain.
- If you’re a gym goer, the gym is likely to be emptier in the morning, so you have more chance of getting the equipment or class you want.
- It’s best to make exercise a habit rather than a conscious choice you make every day, and habits can be easier to form in the morning, as this is a time of day that tends to be more routinised.
Benefits to afternoon/evening exercise
On the flip side, there are also many benefits to be had by working out in the afternoon:
- Afternoon exercise has been linked to improved anaerobic performance, greater reaction times and better endurance.
- You won’t have to rush to get ready for work in the morning after working out.
- You’re already warmed up and fuelled for your exercise, and your body is often better prepared for a workout later in the day.
- You’re more alert later in the day and can focus better on your exercises and technique.
- Exercise helps to blow off steam after a long (and sometimes frustrating) day at work. It has a powerful de-stressing effect.
- If you’re a gym goer, you’ll be able to experience more social benefits in the afternoon as more people are likely to hit the gym at that time.
- People tend to push themselves more later in the day, as the exercise feels easier to us.
- It’s a great way to avoid that end-of-the-day slump.
- Stress-relieving types of exercise such as yoga may even help you sleep better if you perform them later in the day.
- It’s often more convenient to exercise in the afternoon or evening.
Getting outside can help you get fitter – click here to read about the benefits.
Drawbacks to morning exercise
There are a few reasons why morning exercise doesn’t work for everyone:
- Movement can sometimes be harder in the morning, as many people wake up with expanded or swollen discs and greater joint stiffness.
- You’ll require a more rigorous warm up in the morning.
- Many people feel more energetic later in the day.
- You’ll need to make sure you got a good night’s sleep to get the best out of your workout.
Drawbacks to afternoon/evening exercise
And there are a few reasons why exercising later in the day is not always the best idea:
- It’s easy to de-prioritise afternoon exercise as tiredness, stress or other plans may derail your exercise plans. It takes more mental energy to stick to your workout.
- Exercising later in the day can keep your core temperature elevated for longer periods and delay the onset of the restorative deep sleep phase.
- Parties or social events may interfere with the opportunity to exercise.
How much exercise do you really need? Click here to find out.
The best choice for you
While the scientific evidence supporting start of day or end of day exercise can be somewhat conflicting, it’s fair to say that you can make a case for either morning or afternoon exercise. There’s really no reliable evidence that calories are more efficiently burned at certain times of the day. The answer is that there is no right answer as to what time of day it’s best to exercise. It just depends on what time of day works for each individual. While it’s impossible to say whether morning or afternoon exercise is better for people as a whole group, there are definitely times which are better for individuals. The key is to find which time is best for you.
Find a time of day that works for you and that you’re likely to stick to. The best time of day is one when you can be consistent with your workouts. It also helps to find a time of day when you feel good exercising. Everyone’s circadian rhythms are different – some people are night owls and some people are larks. This affects exercise performance by creating variations in physiological markers such as core temperature, blood pressure and heart rate. Results from exercise come when you actually do it, so it’s far better if you can find a time when you enjoy working out. Choosing the exercise routine that is easiest for you will increase your chances of sticking with it. Anytime really is a good time to move – there’s really no bad time to exercise.
Wearing activewear can also help to make you more active. Click here to find out how.