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What time of the day do you like to work out? According to an informal poll I conducted on my Facebook page, most people said they workout in the early morning.
I do, too. I exercise at 5:30 a.m. three days of the week and between 8am and 9am on the other days and weekends. (Can you tell I’m a morning person?)
Are people who work out in the morning on to something? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of exercising at different times of the day.
Why it's great to exercise in the morning:
Exercising in the morning energizes you for the rest of the day. It jump starts your metabolism, keeping it elevated for hours. As a result, many report being more alert for the day and more productive. I just feel better about starting my day when I know I’ve already done something good for my body and mind.
Morning might still be the best option even if you time later in the day. I hear from some people who are even retired or who have a few hours when the kids are in school, but they still choose to work out in the early morning.
Well, there’s something to be said for "getting it done." It’s that “early-bird-gets-the-worm” thing. When you tell yourself I’ll exercise later today, you create opportunity for distraction and detours. “Later” might turn into “never.” And for those of us who travel, I know that client dinners and late nights working often derail a well-intended workout.
Based on the reasons above, morning exercise tends to be more consistent in the long run. If it’s the first thing, or one of the first things, you do in your day, there’s less chance of your workout getting postponed or derailed.
Why it's great to exercise later in the day:
Let’s be clear that a calorie burned at 6am is the same as one burned at 6pm. However, your performance could vary depending on how your energy and moods shift throughout the day. If you're really, really not a morning person, you might feel stronger in your afternoon or evening workouts compared to the morning.
Recent research published in the Journal of Physiology found that exercising in the afternoon may be most beneficial for helping the body regulate its internal clock, or circadian rhythm. A well-regulated circadian rhythm contributes to more restful sleep and other health benefits. One caveat: The subjects in this study were mice. More research needs to be done on timing of exercise with people.
Another consideration is the type of exercise available to you at different times of the day. For example, a solo treadmill workout in the morning versus a social fitness class after work. It comes down to what fitness format motivates you most.
Bottom line: The best time to exercise is the time you're most likely to do it!