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The Best Time to Exercise

The Best Time to Exercise

Exercise is essential to a healthy lifestyle, and its timing can impact its effectiveness.  While everyone’s schedule and lifestyle are different, some general guidelines can be followed to determine the best time to exercise.

In the simplest terms, the answer is – whenever you can fit it in with consistent effort and presence.  As a personal trainer of 19 years, I have experienced a lot of clients’ successes and failures.  One of the most significant issues I see with clients is trying to include exercise at a time that doesn’t fit their current lifestyle. 

One of the most important factors to consider when choosing the best time to exercise is your personal schedule and energy levels.

If you are not a morning person, you will not be excited to get out of bed extra early to move your body.  While you think you can push through and get it done, it will be short-lived.  We don’t want short-lived; we want long-term and a workout that is sustainable.  You are who you are, and that’s ok!  Afternoons or evenings might be your jam, and that is great!  Don’t let social media shame you for not exercising in the morning, and don’t ever compare yourself to what others might be doing!

Life is all about change, and exercise time preference will change with your commitments and the seasons.  If you are a morning exerciser in the summer but find better energy to exercise in the afternoon in the winter, that is perfectly acceptable! Come the summer, you might become a morning person because the sun is up so early. 

Pros of Morning Exercise

Improved Energy for The Day: Regular morning workouts help to energize your body and sharpen your concentration for the day, which makes staying productive during work hours easier.

Adherence for Longevity: Working out in the morning helps to establish an exercise routine and allows you to get it out of the way so that you don’t have to think about it later.  You will be less likely to skip workouts because of things happening in life, which leads to more consistency overall.

Good Mood: Morning exercise produces hormones, such as endorphins, which reduce stress levels, enhance your mood and encourage making better choices during the day.

Cons of Morning Exercise

More Likely to Hit Snooze: It is easy to sleep through your alarm or hit snooze if you didn’t get enough sleep, ruining your exercise plans for the day.

Sleep Debt:  If getting to bed early so you can get up early to train is an obstacle, and you need more sleep, eventually, you will hit a wall from consistently being tired and sleep deprived. 

Lower Energy:  Many need help getting the energy going first thing in the morning, which will lead to less intense sessions or a struggle to be engaged in the session.

Pros of Afternoon/Evening Exercise

Better Performance: Working out in the evening may improve performance and increase strength because your body is more warmed up.  This is especially beneficial for athletes or those taking part in competitive sports.

Improved Sleep Quality: Lower-intensity exercise, such as yoga, in the evening can help you get better sleep as it can help you decompress, leading to more restorative sleep.

Reduced Stress: Evening workouts are a great way to reduce stress and provide a sense of balance.  Exercise the day’s stresses away!

Greater Enjoyment: It may feel more comfortable and less rushed for some in the evenings or afternoons because there are no pressing obligations.

Break Up the Day:  An afternoon workout can give you a mental and physical break from long work hours and recharge you for the rest of the day.

Pros to Afternoon/Evening Exercise

Too Much Simulation Before Bedtime: High-intensity exercise increases your heart rate and can cause an adrenaline rush, making it hard to relax before bed.

Lower Quality Sleep: Studies have shown that exercising too close to bedtime can reduce sleep quality and make you more likely to suffer from interrupted sleep.

Interference With Other Responsibilities: Exercising late in the evening can cut into the time you would typically use for other essential tasks such as studying, time with the kids or family, or preparing for the next day.

The best time of day to exercise depends on several factors, including your personal schedule and energy levels, your sleep schedule, and the type of exercise you are doing.  It comes down to a time that works best for you and your lifestyle that allows you to be consistent.  If you want to get up at 5 am and get it done, it works – fantastic.  If you have to exercise after the kids go to bed at 8 pm – excellent.  While there are some general guidelines to follow, the most important thing is to find a time that works for you that allows you to make exercise a habit.

Shara Vigeant, BA, NSCA-CPT, CFSC