Between long days at the office, drinks with the girls and errands like grocery shopping, finding the time for regular workouts seems next to impossible. If you've got a busy schedule, you're probably used to squeezing in a few ab crunches or a brisk jog whenever time permits—and at any time of day.
But is there an optimal time to exercise that would help you stick with your fitness program—and see faster results? Yes! But here's a news flash: the best time to work out will be different for each person. Although fitness experts have long debated whether there's an ideal time to work out, one thing they all agree on is that individual results will vary.
Here's how to decide whether a morning or evening workout is best for you.
Morning Workouts Are Best Because...
- You’re more awake. If you’re a morning person, you have a better chance of being active and focused during an early workout.
- They increase endorphins and give you an energy boost to start the day. By the time the evening rolls around, you’ll be tired and ready for a good night’s sleep.
- Doing cardio first thing in the morning burns stored body fat, as opposed to the carbs accumulated through daily food intake. So you're more likely to get a weight-loss boost!
But keep in mind:
- Sticking with an early schedule can be a challenge—you'll need to make sure you're hitting the sack at the right time every night to get enough sleep.
- If you prefer to work out at the gym, be prepared: so does everyone else. Mornings are especially busy, so allow yourself enough time for a complete workout, even if you have to wait for certain machines.
Evening Workouts Are Best Because...
- You have the most endurance and strength when your body temperature is at its highest (usually between 4 and 5 p.m.).
- You can work out hard and then relax afterward—instead of rushing off to make it to work in the morning and worry about the upcoming day.
- In the winter, working out later allows time for snow to be cleared for a smoother run or drive to the gym. In the summertime, the humidity drops and it’s a cooler, more comfortable climate to work out in.
- In the winter, working out later allows time for any snow to be cleared so you have a smoother run or drive to the gym. In the summertime, the humidity drops at night, so it's a cooler, more comfortable climate for exercise.
But keep in mind:
- Evening workouts can give you an energy boost that may interfere with sleep. Try to complete your workout before 8 p.m. to prevent insomnia, which can in turn lead to reduced energy levels the following day.
- Cutting dinner short to rush to the gym—or skipping dinner altogether to avoid being full for your workout—can hinder personal relationships. Evenings are when most of us catch up with friends and family, so plan ahead for time with loved ones.
- Some studies have shown that after 12 hours of being awake, our bodies start to tire. Schedule workouts during the late afternoon or early evening, when your energy levels are still high.
No matter when you do it, exercise is a crucial part of a healthy lifestyle. Experiment by working out at different times of day. Once you find the time that feels best and that you'll be able to stick with consistently, set fitness goals, create a schedule and bring a buddy along to the gym to keep you focused. If you can create a routine that you’re comfortable with, the better your results will be.