Getting into a routine with exercise can be difficult for some. If you have a routine set though, when’s the best time to exercise?
Science has the answers but it depends on your goals and what you want to achieve
There are pros and cons to exercising in the morning and evening, we go over both.
Morning and evening workouts have their benefits
- Early birds get better sleep?
- Evening workouts get better gains?
Why it may be important to exercise in the morning rather than at night?
The best time to exercise may be in the morning, if you have chronic sleep problems
When you exercise, a few main things happen.
Okay, well a lot of things happen during exercise. It can be a tool to relieve stress but we use it with our clients to ward away depression and to improve the digestion of our IBS clients.
We will go over just a couple but you find out what happens to your body during exercise
You’ll get an increase in body temperature and rise in cortisol.
Cortisol is commonly known as the “stress hormone” but it gets a bad rap. It’s really just a shuttle for energy production, to fight or flee. It’s a physiological response that we need.
So, depending on intensity of exercise, we give ourselves a cortisol spike which may keep us awake for hours. We also see exercising beneficial for following our natural sleep and wake cycle, where cortisol starts to spike in the morning and should be lower in the evening.
Interestingly enough, people with insomnia but without depression, have elevated cortisol.
We don’t see a huge reason to add to the already hard time people have getting to sleep.
We know that as we are getting ready for sleep, our core body temperature starts to decrease. When we exercise, our internal body raises.
The body’s control of heat and cooling is called “thermoregulation”, it’s the ability to maintain and adjust your core temperature.
It operates on a 24-hour circadian cycle, as does your sleep-wake cycle we talked about. The rising and falling of your body temperature over the 24-hour cycle is an important contributor to the body’s sleep-wake.
Dropping body temperature helps you fall asleep and stay asleep at night, and rising temperature stimulates alertness in the morning.
It’s why working out later in the evening can affect your ability to fall asleep. It also plays a role in disrupting your deep sleep, this is your “beauty” sleep. Which plays a large role in repair and rejuvenation.
This is why we suggest working out in the first hour or so that you’re awake. It helps with the natural cortisol rhythms.
You don’t need to get up at 5am to achieve this, this can be a small home workout within the first hour of when you wake up – something physical can be beneficial.
There might be benefits for exercising in the morning for weight control but I found it personally better for mental clarity.
I’ve never been the one that needed to lose weight but some people swear by the “fasted training”.
This is where you exercise before eating breakfast.
Though the science has mixed results, this is my favourite time to exercise – without food in me.
You’ll have to figure out what works best for you, since everyone else is different.
For most of us, the mornings seem be the best time for maintaining a consistent workout schedule, since most last-minute obligations pop up in the evening and after a long day at work, your motivation can disappear.
If you’re someone who’s gone to the gym at 5:30 pm, you’ll know there’s definitely a rush of people going there.
You probably wait for the machine longer than you’re actually using it. It’s completely different in the morning , it’s quick, satisfying, and you’re done.
When working out in the evening may be better
Let’s not just assume that you only have to workout in the morning because that’s not true – just go to the gym right after work and see the gaggle of people surrounding the machines to see more people exercise in the gym at that time.
If you trust yourself to stay consistent, the evening has plenty of benefits too.
We know that the core body temperature rises throughout the day, and with warmer muscles being more flexible and at less risk of injury, the evening makes a great time for higher intensity activity.
It’s more than that though, your muscles work on a circadian rhythms as well. They’re more efficient during their biological day time.
Strength training and resistance exercise may be most effective in the afternoon and evening.
Remember when I said that exercise in morning increased your deep sleep?
There was a study in 2019 that found evening high-inftesnisty interval exercise does not disrupt sleep in middle-aged men.
Though, it was incredibly small study and the men were inactive prior to it.
So, when’s the best time to exercise?
There is no right or wrong answer when it comes down to the best time to exercise.
It comes down to you, your schedule, and what else you have going on in life.
- If you suffer from being consistent, mornings may be better.
- Not getting enough sleep – try a hard morning workout in mornings for a week. Then try hard workouts in the evening a couple hours before bed
- Have goals of building strength – the afternoon or evening might be best
- Getting hurt often – try changing your workouts to the late afternoon or early evening.
The best thing to do is to pick a best time that will work for you. I suggest trying both for about a week and assess how you are.
Every body is different and we assume that our routine works for us, until we try something different and find it works better.
Try switching your workout to a different time for a week and see how you feel.
Though with science, there’s always articles to refute another one. The time may not directly affect you and you may be able to workout in the evening. We suggest that you try both for a week and see what works best for you. Just because you can fall asleep right after working out doesn’t mean that you’re getting the necessary deep sleep that you need. Always be careful of having pre-workouts right before bed as well – they usually have stimulates in them.