When it comes to fitness goals and exercise, there are many questions that we can ponder. Like should you have protein before or after workout? or should you be lifting heavy or using body weight? In this case, the question is about workout timing. To squeeze in a sweat session before coffee or to work out as the day winds down? That is the question. The good news for both early risers and night owls is that there isn’t a significant health difference between exercising in the morning and evening.
That’s right—any time of day you can squeeze in a workout is time well spent whether it’s a morning workout or evening session. That being said, there are some pros and cons to scheduling your exercise session at different hours of the day or night. In this head-to-head match, you’ll learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of each. The ultimate winner? You, your go-getter attitude, and your steadfast commitment to physical wellness.
Good News for Sunrise Exercise Enthusiasts
While there isn’t necessarily the best time to exercise, there are still benefits of morning training vs evening exercise. If you love getting out of bed, stretching your sleepy muscles, and leaping right into your workout, you’re in luck. There are many benefits to getting your exercise done first thing in the morning, including:
Benefit #1: Other Responsibilities Don’t Get In the Way
We’re all busy—work, school, family, and personal obligations can all interfere with our best workout intentions. However, when you exercise first thing in the morning, it won’t fall to the wayside as your other duties pile up. To set yourself up for early exercise success try the following:
Lay out the clothing you plan to wear the night before
Prepare a pre-workout snack and have it ready for when you get up
Preprogram your coffee maker to brew at your wake-up time
Stay off of your phone in the hours before bed for better sleep
Arrange to meet a friend for your workout so you’re not tempted to hit snooze
Simply taking a few minutes to prepare the night before will help ensure you don’t run into any roadblocks for your morning workout.
Benefit #2: Might Help You Get Better Sleep
Exercising in the afternoon or evening won’t necessarily inhibit your ability to sleep. However, morning exercise may actually enhance the quality of sleep you get the night before. A study in the Journal of Vascular Health and Risk Management analyzed the blood pressure levels of subjects who performed a moderate-intensity treadmill workout at three different times:
The study demonstrated that those who exercised in the morning had a lower nocturnal systolic blood pressure. Lower blood pressure at night allowed these subjects to spend more time in deep sleep compared to those who exercised in the afternoon or evening.
Benefit #3: May Rev Up Your Metabolism and Give You an Energy Boost
If you’re looking to get a little metabolic boost first thing in the morning, exercising at daybreak might help you. To understand why, let’s break down the science:
Studies have demonstrated that your metabolic rate stays higher for up to an hour after exercise.2
A sustained exercise habit may take that metabolism boost even further. When you work out, you build lean muscle. Muscle requires more energy, even at rest.
Therefore, the more lean muscle you have, the more energy your body uses each day.
Along with increasing the amount of energy your body uses, exercising in the morning can also help rev you up for the day. That post-workout endorphin rush could make you feel more energized and ready to tackle your daily tasks.
The Case for Sundown Workouts
Is a sunset HIIT session more your style? There are several benefits to saving your workout for after work or if you’re not a morning person. Some of the pros of working out at night include:
Benefit #1: Performance May Peak In the Evening
Believe it or not, your body temperature actually plays a role in your athletic performance. A slightly higher body temperature improves some key components of exercise abilities, including:3
Your body temperature is typically at its highest between the hours of 2:00 and 6:00 PM. This means you may be more likely to see the gains in performance during this period.
It’s important to note that a natural increase in your internal body temperature can improve performance—but an increase in the ambient temperature around you can have the opposite effect. Hot weather can wreak havoc on your workout and athletic performance, if you’re not used to it.
Benefit #2: Reaction Time May Also Be Better at Night
Studies have shown that reaction time improves as the day progresses.4 Think about how uncoordinated you sometimes feel when you first roll out of bed. You’re groggy and a little slow to pick up on things. Once you’ve been awake for a little while, had some coffee, and eaten breakfast, you feel more alert and able to respond to your environment.
You might also find that your reaction time is a bit more on point at night. This can help your athletic performance, especially if you’re doing exercises that require a quick response, such as:
Playing a sport such as racquetball or tennis
If you do tend to feel sluggish in the morning, an evening workout might be more suited to your lifestyle.
Benefit #3: Can Help Relieve Stress at the End of the Day
You hit snooze too many times, your kid forgot their homework, the bus was late, an important meeting didn’t go as planned—a normal day can be filled with small events that leave you feeling stressed and frustrated. An evening workout might help you leave some of that stress behind.
According to the American Psychological Association, 62% of adults who exercise say it’s a highly effective stress management technique.5 Squeezing in workout time every evening is one way to ensure that you’re getting your recommended amount of movement and managing your daily stress.
Once you’ve had the opportunity to clear your head after a long day, you may find that the rest of your evening is more relaxing and enjoyable.
Potential Downsides to Morning or Evening Workouts
Since exercise is a must for a healthy body and mind, sometimes you simply have to fit in a workout whenever there is a free hour in the day. But if you’re struggling to decide which is best for you, there are some downsides to morning and evening workouts that may help swing the pendulum towards one or the other.
Morning Exercise Cons
Morning exercise can help jumpstart your day and boost your energy. However, it does come with some cons, including:
You sacrifice sleep – Some nights you may struggle to fall asleep. When your alarm goes off bright and early for a workout, getting up and moving could leave you short on sleep. While the occasional sleep loss may not hurt you, extended periods of poor sleep could.
Safety – Depending on where you live, it may still be dark outside when you exercise. If you walk, run, or bike outdoors, make sure that you wear bright, reflective clothing and take extra caution—especially if you start your workout before sunrise. A gym might be a better option for those wishing to avoid the dark.
Nighttime Exercise Cons
Evening workout sessions can give you something to look forward to all day. That post-work sweat session is an excellent way to replace some of your daily worries with endorphins. However, some people find evening exercise difficult because of:
Lack of time – Have you ever had a day that just gets away from you? You’re rushing around to complete all of your necessary tasks and, before you know it, the clock strikes 9:00 PM. Saving your workout for the evening puts it at risk of getting shoved aside when you have other responsibilities.
A need to relax – Some people enjoy evening workouts because it allows them to burn off some steam after a tough day. Others prefer to relax and recharge for the next day. If you fall into the latter group, you may find it more difficult to relax in the evening after a workout. This can also be true if you typically have many tasks to finish after work and exercise won’t fit into your nightly schedule.
The Final Verdict
There aren’t any significant differences in the benefits between working out early or late. As such, the best time to exercise is when you have the time and energy to do so. Some people may even choose to mix it up, working out in the morning on some days and in the evening on others. You can also split your workouts into two shorter sessions, morning and night. What matters the most is getting in enough physical activity and exercise no matter the workout timing.
So, get out those calendars and pencil in those workouts in whatever works best for you.
Fit In Your Workout Early or Late with Chuze Fitness
The best time for you to squeeze in an exercise session is whenever you can fit it into your schedule. Both morning and evening workouts have their advantages and disadvantages. You simply need to weigh the pros and cons to determine which is the best option for your needs. Whether you’re trying to squeeze in TRX workouts or weighted ab workouts, the timing is up to you.
At any Chuze Fitness location, you can work out at your preferred times. Our gyms are open early and stay open late so you don’t have to question squeezing in a morning or evening workout. With plenty of equipment, classes, online workouts via the iChuze app, and team training options, you’ll never stop finding new ways to challenge your body. Check out one of our locations today and find a new way to fall in love with fitness.
About the author:
Ani is the Vice President of Fitness at Chuze Fitness and oversees the group fitness and team training departments. She’s had a 25+ year career in club management, personal training, group exercise and instructor training. Ani lives with her husband and son in San Diego, CA and loves hot yoga, snowboarding and all things wellness.
Vascular Health and Risk Management. Effects of Exercise Timing on Sleep Architecture and Nocturnal Blood Pressure. https://www.dovepress.com/effects-of-exercise-timing-on-sleep-architecture-and-nocturnal-blood-p-peer-reviewed-fulltext-article-VHRM
PubMed. Physical Activity and Resting Metabolic Rate. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14692598/
PubMed. Different Effects of Heat Exposure Upon Exercise Performance in the Morning and Afternoon. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21029194/
Loyola Marymount University. Time-of-Day Effects on Human Performance. https://digitalcommons.lmu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1262&context=ce
American Psychological Association. Exercise: A Healthy Stress Reliever. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2013/exercise
CDC. How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need? https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm