Published on 2/22/2021, Updated on 4/21/2022
We all have busy schedules. In between struggling to balance work life, socializing, and getting dinner on the table, it can be challenging to squeeze workouts in even though we know they’re essential for our health.
So, when is the best time to exercise? Logistically, either morning or evening may work better for you depending on your current stage of life, commitments, and routines. The natural flow of your schedule should help guide your overall decision.
However, you may find yourself still wondering about the scientific benefits of your exercise timing. You might be excited to learn that exercising at certain times can help you maximize your fitness goals.
If you’re trying to determine the best time to exercise, check out the benefits of working out both in the morning and evening below to help you make the best decision for you!
5 Benefits of Working Out in the Morning
1. Start Your Day Right
If you like starting your day on an optimistic note, the morning might be the best time to exercise for you. By getting your workout in bright and early, you’ll kick off your morning with an ego boost knowing you already completed something that many others won’t accomplish all day.
If confidence isn’t enough to carry you through your day with a good attitude, your endorphins will! Endorphins are natural chemicals released by your body when you work out that decrease your perception of pain while releasing positive feelings for good vibes all day long.
2. Motivates You to Be Healthier
Exercising in the morning predisposes your brain to make healthier choices throughout your day. Starting your day with a workout is a great way to put your well-being at the forefront of your thoughts and focus on other ways to practice self-care throughout your day - from treating yourself to a nourishing meal to being mindful about drinking more water.
3. Improves Sleep Quality
Do you struggle with getting good sleep? If so, the morning might just be the best time to work out for you. Studies have shown that working out at 7 AM, compared to later in the afternoon or evening, may help you get better quality sleep at night (1). Plus, getting your fill of good quality shut-eye will help you wake up energized for your workout the next day!
4. Burns Stored Fat
Another benefit to working out in the morning is exercising on an empty stomach could burn more fat. Studies have revealed that you can burn up to 20 percent more body fat when you work out on an empty stomach (2). Which, for obvious reasons, is way more practical and safer to accomplish right when you wake up than after a long day of fasting.
5. Opens Your Schedule
Most people don’t find themselves overwhelmingly busy in the early morning as they often are in the evening between kids’ events, social schedules, and dinner plans with family or friends. If you prefer time to relax in the evening, the morning might be more practical for carving out the alone time for exercise.
5 Benefits of Working Out in the Evening
1. Provides Stress Relief
After a long day at work or school, it can feel great to blow off some steam in a sweaty workout session. If you’re feeling negative, down, frustrated, or stressed - take all of that negative energy and pour it into a killer workout! You’ll leave your workout feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and a little better about the other challenges you faced throughout the day.
2. Gives You Time to Fuel
Do you feel low energy during your morning workout sessions? You may prefer working out in the afternoon or evening when you have time to properly fuel. Fueling with regular meals throughout the day, as well as a pre-workout snack will give you the energy you need to perform your best in all-out workouts like sprinting, vigorous cardio, HIIT sessions, or heavy weight lifting where your performance is a top priority.
3. Helps Curb Late Night Hunger
According to one study's findings, exercising in the early evening may favorably alter hunger appetite-related hormone, ghrelin, concentration (3). A dip in hunger levels may help you control your cravings - which might make the evening the best exercise time for you - especially if you deal with the late-night munchies. However, the study also found that perceived appetite and energy intake did not change in study subjects based on the time of day the workout was performed.
4. Improves Reaction Time
Aiming to improve your speed? According to a review of human performance, your reaction time is at its quickest through the afternoon and evening (4). If you find high-intensity interval (HIIT) workouts or speed work are regularly a part of your routine, the best time to exercise for your goals might be later in the day.
5. Boosts Performance
Just like you should regularly warm up before a workout, your body also takes time to warm up and get primed for the day. Research even suggests your body’s ability to perform peaks in the afternoon with faster oxygen uptake, higher body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure at their lowest, and faster reaction times (5). If you find yourself feeling not quite 100% in morning sessions, you may benefit from afternoon or evening sessions when your body is awake, alert, and ready to give your all!
So, When Is the Best Time to Exercise?
While the science and studies may shift your allegiance towards either morning or evening workouts based on your fitness goals, it’s important to remember exercise is vital, no matter what time of day you do it.
When it comes to exercise timing, there are no physiological differences that are more pressing than simply finding a time to work out that aligns with your long-term fitness goals and is something you can consistently commit to.
What matters is that you find a good time for exercise that works for you and stick to it. If you can find space in your routine to be consistent, you’ll see better results from your program, and that’s what counts!
(1) “Effects of exercise timing on sleep architecture and nocturnal blood pressure in prehypertensives”. Vascular Health Risk Management, 2014, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4270305/. Accessed 15 April, 2022.
(2) “Breakfast and exercise contingently affect postprandial metabolism and energy balance in physically active males”. British Journal of Nutrition, 2013, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23340006/ Accessed 15 April, 2022.
(3) “Evening high-intensity interval exercise does not disrupt sleep or alter energy intake despite changes in acylated ghrelin in middle-aged men”. Experimental Psychology, 2019, https://physoc.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1113/EP087455. Accessed 15 April, 2022.
(4) “Time-of-Day Effects on Human Performance”. Journal of Catholic Education, 2004, https://digitalcommons.lmu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=&httpsredir=1&article=1262&context=ce. Accessed 15 April, 2022.
(5) “Different Effects of Heat Exposure Upon Exercise Performance in the Morning and Afternoon”. National Library of Medicine National Center for Biotechnology Information, 2010, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21029194/. Accessed 2 February, 2021.