There is much debate about the best time of day to exercise. Whether you decide to squeeze in your sweat session in the morning, afternoon or evening you may want to know, “Does it really matter?”
According to Olga Hays, an American Council on Exercise-certified wellness promotion specialist at Sharp HealthCare, “There is no hard scientific evidence proving that a certain time of the day is better for exercising than the other. The best time to work out is any time you’ll do it most consistently,” she says.
Benefits of morning workouts
From the physiological standpoint, there are certain benefits of both morning and afternoon workouts depending on your fitness goals. If you exercise primarily for weight loss or weight management, some experts argue you may benefit more from morning workouts due to the following factors:
- Morning workouts rev up your metabolism, so if you hit the gym early, you will burn more calories throughout the day.
- Exercising in the morning can burn up to 20 percent more body fat if you work out on an empty (or almost empty) stomach. Morning workouts push the body to tap into its fat reserves for fuel as opposed to burning off snacks and meals we eat during the day.
- Exercising in the morning can limit food cravings and increase your activity level throughout the day.
“Morning exercisers are also less likely to skip a session because everyday distractions, such as a meeting running late or doing errands, aren’t in the way,” adds Hays.
Benefits of evening workouts
If you exercise to boost muscle strength, some studies have shown that it is better to work out in the evening due to the following factors:
- Your muscle strength tends to be at its lowest in the morning, so resistance training is more effective in the early evening when your muscles are warmed up and more flexible.
- Your heart rate and blood pressure are at their lowest in the afternoon, and your reaction time is faster. This can improve performance and reduce the risk of injury.
An evening workout can also be a stress-buster that helps you decompress, clear your mind and let out the frustrations of a tough day.
“No matter what time of day you choose, it’s important to feel good when you are exercising,” Hays explains. “If you are not a natural morning exerciser, but are forcing yourself out of bed at 6 am to get the benefit of a revved-up metabolism, chances are you won’t stick to your regimen because you aren’t feeling optimal in the morning.”
“Even a small workout is better than no workout,” she says. “The most important factor is to commit to an exercise program on a regular basis and to stick with it.”
To keep workouts consistent, treat them as an unbreakable appointment or a fun social activity, rather than a chore. Finding a workout partner can also increase your chances of sticking to a long-term fitness plan. Working out with a buddy adds a level of accountability that can really make the difference between sticking to your workout and talking yourself out of it.
Your body is smart and adapts to change quickly. Studies show that if you repeatedly train at a specific time each day, you will start to perform better at that time than any other time of day — another good reason to be consistent with your workout times.