The No. 1 reason people give for not exercising is lack of time. Anyone who is busy has to make time to exercise, and keep it a priority. And that may mean forgoing something else, like sleeping in, eating out at lunch or binging on Netflix.
Given that it can be a challenge to fit in consistent workouts, people want the greatest ROI and often ask when is the best time to exercise. Are morning or evening workouts better? Or is it more effective to hit the gym mid-day?
While there are some different physiological benefits to working out at various times of the day, the real answer to when is the best time to exercise is whatever time you will commit to regularly. That time may even vary depending on your schedule and the day. Ultimately, any time spent exercising – whether at 5 a.m. or 10 p.m. – is better than doing nothing at all. Don’t ever skip a sweat session because it’s not your “ideal” time. Every workout matters.
When is the Best Time to Exercise?
Early birds are in luck here, as research has shown that morning exercise has an advantage, particularly if you do so on an empty stomach. Because you have higher levels of growth hormone and cortisol in the morning, your body is more likely to draw energy from stored fat, which is what many of us want to happen during exercise.
In addition, studies show that exercising in the morning can limit your appetite throughout the day, which benefits weight loss or weight management efforts. And jump-starting your system can contribute to better mental health and productivity throughout the day.
Finally, research indicates that people who exercise in the morning are typically more adherent and stick to their routine over time. This makes sense, as you’re less likely to run into scheduling conflicts (working late, picking up the kids, etc.) first thing in the morning as you might later in the day.
If you absolutely dread getting out of bed in the morning and are a big fan of the Snooze button, don’t despair. Don’t drag yourself to the gym if you are only going to phone it in there. Although all workouts count, if you are simply going through the motions with minimal effort and slacking off big-time because you just can’t get going at that early hour, then pick a different time of day when you can challenge yourself and reap more benefits.
Lunchtime sessions may be better for you. At this time, you may have more energy, since you’ve been awake for awhile and have eaten something, which boosts your blood sugar. That means you are more likely to work harder and be more invested in your regimen. Plus, if you have limited time at lunch, you tend to focus better and work efficiently, rather than chatting with other exercisers or taking frequent water breaks.
One study should that working out between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. can help ward off the dreaded afternoon slump and keep your engine humming into the evening.
Exercise after work is convenient for many people, but is subject to being derailed by unanticipated interruptions. Like afternoon sessions, you may have more energy at night and be able to work harder for better results. Some studies have suggested that nighttime workouts can interrupt sleep, but this shouldn’t be the case as long as you don’t exercise immediately before going to bed.
Another research paper said that evening exercise can decrease levels of ghrelin, which stimulates hunger, and therefore help promote weight loss or weight management.