When is the Best Time to Exercise? Here’s What Science Says.

There are benefits to working out in the morning as well as in the afternoon and night. But when is the best time to exercise for maximum results? Here are some pros and cons to help you decide when you should train.

Pros of Morning Exercise

You can get it over and done with

When you’re tired from work, you’ll thank your morning self for exercising in the AM. Once you’ve gotten it out of the way, you can go accomplish the rest of your to-do list without the prospect of a trip to the gym hanging over your whole day. There is some evidence that your willpower to do things like exercise depletes as the day goes on. If you struggle with having the willpower to exercise to begin with, you probably have the best odds in the morning.

You’ll have to make time for the gym

Working out in the morning forces you to make time for exercise. You can set your alarm so that you have enough time to wake up, do your workout, and get ready for the day. With these time pressures, you might find that it’s actually easier to get motivated for a good workout. Additionally, you are likely making use of time that would have just been spent hitting the snooze button repeatedly. If you think you are benefitting from those extra ten minute bursts of sleep between alarms, it’s time to reconsider. These small bursts are not restorative and could even make us feel drowsier.

You’ll get a great jump-start to your day

Tempted to roll over and go back to sleep when your alarm rings? Exercise can actually wake you up even better than extra sleep. Your body will be pumped up and ready for the day thanks to the increased blood flow and endorphins that exercise provides. Plus, if just making your bed in the morning makes a difference, imagine what knocking out an entire workout could do.

Cons of Morning Exercise

Your body is stiff

Your body and muscles will be stiff after waking up, so you’ll want to spend more time warming up. It can be tempting to skip your warm-up, but trust us, that’s a bad way to save time. If you do spend those extra few minutes warming up, you’ll greatly decrease your risk of injury.

You have to train fasted

If you exercise when you first wake up, you’re most likely going to have to train fasted or on a small snack. That might take some getting used to if you aren’t already accustomed to it. Until then, a cup of coffee or  pre-workout supplements can give you the energy boost you need to power through your morning workout.

Pros of Afternoon/Night Exercise

Your body is warmer

Our body temperature naturally rises throughout the day. By hitting the gym later in the day, you’ll have a more ideal body temperature and warmer muscles going into your training. While this doesn’t mean that you can skip your warm-up (it’s still a definite must), you’ll be ready to train a lot quicker than in the morning.

You have more energy

If you exercise in the afternoon or evening, chances are that by the time you get to the gym, you’ll already have a couple meals in you. Since food is energy, this means you’ll have more strength and endurance to be able to make it through your workout.

You can de-stress from the day

One of the biggest benefits of exercise is that it’s an opportunity to release any stress, anxiety, or anger in a healthy way. When you train in the afternoon or night, you have an outlet to let go of any of these feelings that might have built up over the course of the day. This will allow you to finish your day feeling relaxed.

Cons of Afternoon/Night Exercise

You have to deal with busier gyms

If you like heading to the gym for your workout, be prepared to navigate through peak hours. It’s more crowded and the wait times for the machines are longer. You should expect to have more people around you during these times.

You’ll have to be really dedicated

Here’s the problem with planning to train after work: Between all the other errands you have to do, it’s easy to neglect your gym time and prioritize other tasks instead. Exercise is often what falls off people’s to-do lists when they’re busy.

You might find your sleep disrupted

Just as exercising in the morning can wake you up, it can also mean that it’ll keep you up at night. Exercise leads to an increased body temperature and heart rate, neither of which are conducive to falling asleep. If you work out too close to your bedtime, you may find it harder to fall asleep — at least until your body cools back down. If night workouts are your only option, you might want to experiment with natural sleep aids such as valerian, melatonin, or CBD.

How does exercise fit into your lifestyle?

All things considered, it doesn’t matter what time you choose to exercise as long as you’re consistent. If you’re an early bird and enjoy a morning workout, then go for mornings. If you’re a night owl, then the afternoon or evening may be better. By choosing a time that best suits your lifestyle and body clock, you’ll be more likely to exercise regularly — which is what matters most.

A powerlifter by day and a writer by night, Emily Trinh has a passion for all things health, fitness and writing—which makes her profession as a health and fitness writer quite fitting.