Experts go back and forth about whether a morning or evening workout is better for overall success. But the truth is, the best time of day to exercise is the time that works best for you. It essentially comes down to your personal preference and lifestyle. The better your workout time fits your internal rhythm and daily routine, the more likely you are to stick to it.
Only you know what time of day you feel the most alert, the most motivated and the most energetic. Whether you are a morning person or a night owl has a lot to do with your body’s internal clock, your circadian rhythm, or daily cycle of sleep and wake times. It’s this cycle that regulates physical, mental, and behavioral changes within a 24-hour period. Body temperature, blood pressure, and metabolism are some of the physiological processes that can be affected by your body’s internal clock. These rhythms respond to changes in the environment and can be set and reset. Your personal clock can also affect what time of day you prefer to exercise.
If you are the proverbial morning person more than likely your best time to work out is in the a.m. Research suggests that those who exercise in the morning tend to be more consistent with their exercise routine. The idea is you’ll get your workout in before any other events or distractions of the day interfere, thus setting yourself up for success. People who exercise earlier in the day generally find they can manage their time better and they feel more energized throughout the day. If you do exercise in the morning, make sure to give yourself a little extra warm-up time to get your body temperature elevated and your muscles warm.
If your circadian rhythm swings toward the other direction, you may find that afternoon or evening exercise can be the perfect way to relieve stress and unwind at the end of a busy day. Exercising in the morning just doesn’t feel right for you because, when you wake up, your muscles feel tight and your blood sugars may be low. Afternoon or evening workouts may be preferable when you are more alert, your body temperature is naturally elevated, and your muscles are warm and flexible. You also have the added benefit of having had the opportunity to get some food in your system, which can help you feel more energized during your workout.
A warning to night owls: An all-out workout is about as far from a calming bedtime routine as it gets. It raises your body temperature, speeds up your heart rate, and stimulates your nervous system. Exercising intensely too close to bedtime, for some people, can lead to interrupted sleep, and the lack of adequate sleep also can negatively affect your exercise performance.
For much of America, the workday begins at 9:00 am and ends at 5:00 pm, but for many others, a workday may begin before daylight and end in mid-afternoon, or it may span the overnight hours from 7:00 pm to 7:00 am, for example, shift workers like hospital employees. Your work hours are one part of your day you probably have the least control over. Plan your exercise schedule so that you can get in your regular fitness routine at a time when you can work out without feeling rushed or stressed about being late for work. Your exercise performance will thank you and so will your boss.
Whether you exercise for weight loss, stress relief, or one of the many other health benefits, it’s important to be consistent. Schedule that time for exercise based on what works best for you – morning, noon, afternoon or early evening. Your body’s internal clock will reset itself and your sleep habits and changes to meal times will either fall into place or can be adjusted based on when you decide to work up a sweat!