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What’s The Best Time of Day to Exercise?

best time of day to workout

Some people set their alarm early, get dressed and hit the road or the gym before daylight. They swear that’s the key to feeling and looking great all day long, and they generally seem to be fit and self-disciplined.

Other people would rather have a root canal than work out first thing in the morning. They say they’re more efficient once they’ve had a chance to wake up. They, too, seem to have a routine that works for them.

Then there are people who have tried just about everything. Early mornings it’s too hard to get going. Afternoons are hectic. Evenings they feel too tired. They wonder if maybe they just haven’t found their groove, if there’s a better time of day to exercise that would make things easier.

The bad news is, there’s no magic hour that makes workouts effortless and amazing every single time. However, when you study the way the body works, there are some things you can glean about the best time of day to exercise.

Afternoon Benefits

The body can adapt to any workout time, so if early morning or later in the day is what you’re already doing consistently, stick to it. However, there are benefits to exercising in the afternoon.

Your body’s core temperature is one of the important factors for getting a good workout. When your body is cold, your muscles are tight and more prone to injury. It takes longer to get going, so you need to spend longer warming up.

For most people, body temperature increases throughout the day. Your muscle strength and endurance may be at their highest in the afternoon. You’re more likely to have peak athletic performance and the lowest risk of injury.

Hormones also play a role. Testosterone aids in muscle growth for both genders. In general, bodies generate more of it during afternoon strength training sessions than it does for the same workout earlier in the day. Plus, cortisol production peaks in the morning and drops as the day goes by. However, you’ll reduce the amount of this fat-storing stress hormone any time of day you exercise, not just in the afternoon.

Early Bird Benefits

For a lot of East Texans, nothing beats working out first thing in the morning. Here’s why:

  • Nothing gets in the way. You make exercise your first priority, so you’re more consistent.
  • You’re fresh. When you’ve poured energy into your job and family all day, there’s less left for exercise.
  • You’ll sleep better. Your core body temperature peaks earlier in the day, so it drops earlier in the evening, making you feel more ready for bed.
  • You might be more likely to eat healthy all day long. Early exercise helps curb appetite for some. You start your day with a healthy habit, and more follow.

Evening Workouts

An Australian study recently found half an hour of HIIT training later in the evening won’t keep you up all night. Researchers had a group of 11 middle-aged men exercise at 6 a.m., between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. and after 7 p.m. There was minimal difference in their sleep time, with only one or two minute differences in how fast participants fell asleep with evening exercise. They also saw a reduction in the hunger hormone ghrelin.

The Bottom Line

The time of day isn’t as important as whether or not you do it regularly. If you’re just starting an exercise program and your schedule is completely flexible, try afternoon workouts first. However, most weekdays F.I.T. opens at 4:30 in the morning and stays open until midnight, so the gym is available whenever you are. Check out our class schedule for extra motivation, support and encouragement.