When Is The Best Time To Exercise? (2023)

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When Is The Best Time To Exercise? (1)

Table of Contents

  • When Is the Best Time to Exercise?
  • Benefits of Morning Workouts
  • Drawbacks of Morning Workouts
  • Benefits of Night Workouts
  • Drawbacks of Night Workouts
  • Which Is Best?

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When it comes to what time of day is best for a workout, most experts will tell you it’s “whenever you’ll actually do it.”

And while exercising at any time is better than not exercising at all, research shows certain times of the day are better than others for squeezing in a workout. Here’s what you need to know to optimize your workout routine.

(Video) When is the best time to exercise? – BBC REEL

When Is the Best Time to Exercise?

When planning an effective workout, take frequency, intensity, time and type into consideration, according to the FITT principle—a method that establishes the guidelines that should be used in a fitness plan.

Regarding the time component of the FITT principle, remember humans are cyclical beings. Our circadian rhythm helps regulate hormones that affect bodily functions like our sleep/wake cycle, energy levels, hunger, body temperature, breathing capacity and energy stores.

Timing your workout to your circadian rhythm can mean increased coordination, improved energy metabolism and better sleep. Think of it this way: If you’re getting up before sunrise to exercise but you’re not typically an early riser, your body may feel a little sluggish, slow to react and weaker than if you exercise at a later hour.

Ultimately, though, it comes down to preference or what your daily schedule looks like. Some people prefer to work out in the morning, while others hit the gym after work and still reap the same benefits.

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Benefits of Morning Workouts

Early workouts often lead to fewer distractions and increased productivity throughout the day, says Mark Brisby, a sports medicine doctor of chiropractic and owner of The Training Room in Santa Barbara, California.

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In a study of 51 healthy adolescents, those who ran 30 minutes in the morning three days a week reported improved sleep quality, mood and concentration during the day, as well as decreased daytime sleepiness, compared to the control group (who did not engage in any running).

Research considering the effects of circadian cortisol—the usual fluctuation of your body’s cortisol level—on habit formation shows that cortisol plays an important and well-documented role in developing and maintaining a healthy habit. Since you tend to have a higher concentration of cortisol in the morning, exercising at this time might help make working out a stronger habit. Indeed, morning exercisers in a 2017 study in Health Psychology achieved consistency with a stretching routine nearly 50 days sooner than those who stretched in the evening[1]Fournier M, D'Arripe-Longueville F, Rovere C, Easthope CS, Schwab L, Methni E, J, Radel R. Effects of circadian cortisol on the development of a health habit. ealth Psychology. 2017;36(11):1059–1064. .

Research also suggests morning workouts can curb appetite throughout the day. A small study from Brigham Young University compared food intake and brain responses to food images in a group of 35 women. Those who completed 45 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise in the morning had a lower response to food images and didn’t consume extra calories during the day to make up for the calories burned during exercise[2]BYU Study says exercise may reduce motivation for food. Brigham Young University. Accessed 7/5/21. .

Drawbacks of Morning Workouts

One of the biggest drawbacks to morning workouts involves sacrificing sleep. Sleep debt—the difference between the amount of sleep you need versus the amount of quality sleep you actually get—is associated with an increase in catabolic hormones, which break down muscle, and a decrease in anabolic hormones, which build muscle. This negatively affects muscle adaptation and recovery after exercise.

Some say exercising first thing in the morning, before you can talk yourself out of it, is a good strategy, but Brisby disagrees. Having a nervous system primed and ready to perform is essential, he says—especially when completing complicated movements like agility drills and powerlifting.

Brisby also notes that eating before exercising—something you might skip if you’re trying to squeeze in a workout before work or other obligations—is important in order to avoid depleting energy stores during your workout. He suggests allowing enough time to eat a simple meal in the morning, such as a hard-boiled egg or serving of yogurt, to help you power through your workouts. Overeating can make you feel sluggish and full, though, so keep portions small.

Ideally, save high-intensity and neurologically demanding exercise for a mid-morning session or an hour or two after you wake up, Brisby suggests. This timing allows you to not only have a small meal before your workout, but also to be more alert and neurologically prepared for a challenging workout, promoting better focus, coordination and, ultimately, a better workout experience.

When Is The Best Time To Exercise? (6)When Is The Best Time To Exercise? (7)

Benefits of Night Workouts

When it comes to exercising in the evenings, the most significant benefit is that most people have more time. This can lead to better focus, longer workouts and better exercise adherence if you’re working out with friends or participating in an exercise class. Evening exercise can also be a great way to de-stress, boost endorphins and leave your workday behind you.

Contrary to popular belief, new research on high-intensity exercise and sleep in men shows high-intensity exercise doesn’t affect sleep or appetite if performed in the early evening. There’s also evidence that engaging in low-intensity exercise in the evening can actually improve sleep quality in older adults, which may be a helpful way to get better rest without medications.

(Video) When is the Best Time to Workout to Build Muscle? (Morning vs Evening)

Evening workouts can also help you maximize your workout performance. When looking at anaerobic output, such as peak power and jump performance, some studies show evening workouts yield better results. A 2020 review looked at 44 studies that examined the time of day differences on short-duration maximal exercise. All but two found better performance outcomes in the afternoon[3]Mirizio, G, Nunes, R, Vargas, D. A, Foster, C, & Vieira, E. Time-of-Day Effects on Short-Duration Maximal Exercise Performance. Scientific Reports. 2020;10(1):9485. . This difference may be due to a better ability to concentrate, more fuel reserves from eating during the day and/or more time to warm up before exercising.

Drawbacks of Night Workouts

If you struggle to get a good night’s sleep, intense workouts right before bed may be problematic. A 2019 study found exercising vigorously less than an hour before bedtime can increase arousal, delay sleep and disturb sleep quality[4]Stutz J, Eiholzer R, Spengler CM. Effects of Evening Exercise on Sleep in Healthy Participants: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports medicine. 2019;49(2):269–287. . To avoid this reaction, aim to work out in the early evening to give your body ample time to unwind before bedtime.

Overall, it all comes down to how well you perform mentally and physically in the evenings and what time you go to bed. If you’re naturally a morning person, forcing yourself to exercise in the evening and delaying bedtime may not work for you. Meanwhile, others might find they only have time to exercise after their young children go to bed, so if that’s the time that keeps you consistent, it’s much better than not working out at all. While there are some drawbacks to evening workouts, any activity you perform consistently is your best choice.

Which Is Best?

There are benefits to morning and evening workouts, and experts agree whatever time you can find to exercise is better than not working out at all. Morning exercise may have an edge when it comes to benefits like fewer distractions, increased productivity throughout the day and habit formation, but evening exercise might be better if you’re looking to improve your performance.

Sources

Footnotes

References

(Video) 💪 Best Time To Exercise For Losing Fat & Shrinking Your Belly - by Dr Sam Robbins

FAQs

Is it better to exercise in the morning or at night? ›

Your physical performance might improve: Research shows that most people function better, physically speaking, later in the day. Muscle strength, flexibility, power output and endurance are all better in the evening than they are in the morning.

What is the best time of day to exercise? ›

“Exercising at 7 a.m. or between 1 and 4 p.m. helps your circadian clock to 'fall back' in time, making it easier to wake up earlier,” Heisz says. If you need to train your body to wake up later in the morning, try working out between 7 and 10 p.m. “The best time to exercise is when you can fit it in,” Arciero says.

Is it better to exercise on an empty stomach? ›

The Truth About Fasting Exercise

The truth is that exercising in a fasted state will indeed help you burn fat calories faster. You may see the number on the scale decrease. However, exercising on an empty stomach will also cause you to lose lean muscle mass at the same time, which can hinder long-term weight loss.

What is the best time for exercise to lose weight? ›

Researchers say women burn more fat exercising during morning hours, while men burn more fat at night. Women aiming to improve blood pressure also get better results by exercising in the morning, the study says.

Can I workout right after waking up? ›

Working out after waking up is a great way to kick-start your morning and sneak your exercise in before you tackle the day. Do you jump up out of bed ready to start your day? If your energy level is high and your body feels ready, working out first thing in the morning might be the best time for you to get moving.

How long should I workout a day? ›

As a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day. If you want to lose weight, maintain weight loss or meet specific fitness goals, you may need to exercise more. Reducing sitting time is important, too.

How late is too late exercise? ›

The findings suggest that it's never too late to start an exercise regimen. Try brisk walking, swimming, or any exercise that gets your heart and lungs pumping.

Should I eat before or after I workout? ›

Eat after you exercise

To help your muscles recover and to replace their glycogen stores, eat a meal that contains both carbohydrates and protein within two hours of your exercise session if possible. Consider a snack if your meal is more than two hours away.

Is it okay to workout at 7pm? ›

In fact, nighttime sweat sessions have so much upside that even early risers might consider including them in their weekly lineup of workouts. If you're wondering, 6 P.M. is actually the most popular time of day for running, strength training, indoor cycling and dance-cardio workouts, according to Jawbone stats.

What happens if you exercise and don't eat enough? ›

"If you do a moderate-high intensity workout without properly fueling, your blood sugar can drop very low, making you feel dizzy or faint," Matheny explains. You're also likely to feel straight-up tired or lethargic if you're not giving your body energy, yet are demanding a lot from it during a tough workout.

How long do you need to work out to see results? ›

Within three to six months, an individual can see a 25 to 100% improvement in their muscular fitness – providing a regular resistance program is followed. Most of the early gains in strength are the result of the neuromuscular connections learning how to produce movement.

How can I lose my belly fat? ›

To battle belly fat:
  1. Eat a healthy diet. Focus on plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and choose lean sources of protein and low-fat dairy products. ...
  2. Replace sugary beverages. ...
  3. Keep portion sizes in check. ...
  4. Include physical activity in your daily routine.

How long should a workout last? ›

The ideal workout duration can vary significantly depending on the person, their goals, their preferences, and the exercise type. For weightlifting and bodyweight strength training, 45–60 minutes per session may suffice. Meanwhile, cardiovascular and calisthenic training may be better if performed for 30–60 minutes.

Is it OK to exercise in evening? ›

There isn't enough data to recommend exercising at one time or another, but researchers say evening might be the best time to get in your workout. They also say it's also important to recognize the role that circadian rhythms play in sleep hygiene.

What exercises burn belly fat in a week? ›

Some examples include:
  1. Running. Running is an aerobic activity that is very efficient for weight loss and belly fat burning. ...
  2. Aerobic class. ...
  3. Jumping rope. ...
  4. Cycling. ...
  5. Speed walking. ...
  6. Swimming.

Is it good to exercise at night? ›

Traditionally, experts have recommended not exercising at night as part of good sleep hygiene. Now a new study, published Oct. 29, 2018, in Sports Medicine, suggests that you can exercise in the evening as long as you avoid vigorous activity for at least one hour before bedtime.

What exercises burn belly fat in a week? ›

Some examples include:
  1. Running. Running is an aerobic activity that is very efficient for weight loss and belly fat burning. ...
  2. Aerobic class. ...
  3. Jumping rope. ...
  4. Cycling. ...
  5. Speed walking. ...
  6. Swimming.

Is it beneficial to workout at night? ›

Working out at night may even mean better performance, increased endurance levels, more time exercising, and more benefits of exercise on your body. A small study found that the participants performed better and 20% longer during their evening workout session than their morning session.

Does working out in the morning burn more fat? ›

Summary: People can burn up to 20% more body fat by exercising in the morning on an empty stomach, according to new research. People can burn up to 20% more body fat by exercising in the morning on an empty stomach, according to new research from Northumbria University.

Videos

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