When Is the Best Time to Work Out?

Starting off the day with a dewy, post-gym glow is only the beginning.

Some people love the jolt exercise gives them in the morning, while others swear by a sunset sweat. But is one better than the other?

Of course, the best time to work out is whenever gym time meshes with your schedule so that you show up regularly. If you can only squeeze in a jog or yoga flow after work, it's smarter to do that than skip it altogether. In other words, some exercise is better than none.

But as it turns out, there is an optimal time for working out when you'll reap the most benefits. Some evidence suggests that starting the day with exercise comes with health benefits. 

And honestly, exercising in the morning is not as hard as you may think once you get the hang of it. Here are five reasons, according to research, to start setting your alarm a little bit earlier to exercise in the morning. 

You'll Make Healthy Choices All Day

When you're proud of yourself for consistently killing it at your 8 a.m. gym class, you won't want to ruin that healthy high by making unhealthy decisions. 

"When you start the day working on your health, you'll strive to maintain that healthiness," Zack Daley, CPT, head coach at Tone House in New York, told Health

Instead, you'll likely try to keep that awesome feeling going by taking the stairs to get to your office or indulging in a healthy grain bowl at lunch. All of those little moves add up to a healthier you.

You'll Get a Restful Night's Sleep

Research has found that people who exercise early may sleep better. In one study published in 2014 in the Journal of Vascular Health and Risk Management, researchers studied people who exercised at three different times of day: 7 a.m., 11 a.m., and 7 p.m.

The researchers found that people who worked out at 7 a.m. went to sleep earlier, spent more time in deep sleep, and woke up fewer times throughout the night than others.

"I find that when I work out early, I am able to get to bed easier at night," noted Daley. "But when I work out later at night, my adrenaline is still going from my late-night workout."

You Might Lower Your Blood Pressure

People with hypertension (high blood pressure) often need to control their condition with medications. But lifestyle changes, like exercising in the morning, may also help.

In the 2014 study, the researchers also found that people who worked out early at 7 a.m. reduced their post-workout blood pressure by 10%. That dip continued all day and lowered even more at night than the others.

You'll Boost Your Mood

Working out makes you feel good, which you might know firsthand. According to a review published in 2018 in the Journal of Happiness Studies, researchers found that people who regularly exercise, even for short amounts of time, feel happier than those who don't.

People also have low levels of stress hormones like cortisol after exercising, which helps improve mood. Getting that cheery feeling in the morning may be helpful. You'll start your day feeling optimistic and less susceptible to stress and anxiety, setting you up for a positive, productive day. 

You Might Lose Weight

If you're exercising to lose weight, your results might slightly depend on the timing of your workouts. According to a study published in 2019 in the International Journal of Obesity, people who exercised before noon lost "significantly more weight" than those who exercised past 3 p.m.  

Also, according to the researchers, early exercisers were slightly more active throughout the day. Those people ultimately ended up taking more steps than late exercisers. Still, the researchers noted that the study was small and needed more data to support those claims.

You'll Have the Rest of the Afternoon and Evening Free

In a perfect world, you would look forward to your regular date with the elliptical machine with pure, unbridled enthusiasm. But sometimes, going to the gym is the last thing you want to do. 

But if you schedule your workouts for early in the day, you'll get your exercise out of the way. Then, you won't have to worry about it later.

How To Create a Morning Workout Routine

No matter how motivated you are, peeling yourself out of bed in the morning to squeeze in a workout can be challenging. But having a routine that includes the following technique can help make it feel manageable:

  • Get enough sleep: Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), aim to get at least seven hours of sleep. If you don't get enough sleep, you won't feel energized to get out of bed, let alone get out of bed to exercise.  
  • Do an exercise you enjoy: If you force yourself to wake up to lift weights but hate lifting weights, skipping sleep for a workout will be challenging. Instead, opt for an exercise you enjoy or, at the very least, can tolerate.
  • Prepare for your workout the night before: Working out in the morning might feel hard enough without having to rummage through your home and make decisions about clothing. Setting your workout clothes, water bottle, and other gear before bed can help save time and energy.
  • Have breakfast food on hand: Ensure you stock your kitchen with food to assemble a simple breakfast quickly. While eating before a workout isn't necessary, some evidence suggests that a small meal may help give you an energy boost that can enhance performance.

A Quick Review

Both morning and evening workouts have pros and cons. Still, evidence suggests you'll probably reap more benefits from working out in the morning than in the evening. 

Those advantages may include better sleep, blood pressure, and mood to take on the day. If you're eager to try a morning workout, getting enough sleep and preparing for your workout the night before can make the process easier.

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  3. Zhang Z, Chen W. A systematic review of the relationship between physical activity and happinessJ Happiness Stud. 2019;20(4):1305-1322. doi:10.1007/s10902-018-9976-0

  4. American Psychological Association. Working out boosts brain health.

  5. Willis EA, Creasy SA, Honas JJ, Melanson EL, Donnelly JE. The effects of exercise session timing on weight loss and components of energy balance: midwest exercise trial 2Int J Obes (Lond). 2020;44(1):114-124. doi:10.1038/s41366-019-0409-x

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How much sleep do I need?.

  7.  National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Staying active at any size.

  8. Kerksick CM, Arent S, Schoenfeld BJ, et al. International society of sports nutrition position stand: nutrient timingJ Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017;14:33. doi:10.1186/s12970-017-0189-4

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