This is another one of those questions that does not have a simple answer. Last month, I tried to help answer the question: Is 30 Minutes of Exercise Enough? You can read that post here. As a fitness instructor, I get asked this question a lot. And again, the answer will vary based on several different variables. So, should you exercise in the morning, afternoon, or evening? Let’s take a look at the benefits of each.
Morning workouts are really great for morning people. If you wake up pretty chipper and ready to go, then this might be your prime time. If you need a gallon of coffee before you even talk to anyone, then maybe not so much. But you never know until you try it…and I don’t mean once. I mean get into the routine of exercising in the morning and see if it works for you.
One advantage of working out in the morning is that you get it done and over with. It is the first thing on your to-do list, and the first thing to be crossed off that list. When you exercise in the morning, there is less chance of unplanned obstacles getting in your way and sabotaging your good intentions. The sooner you get it done in the day, the less chance there is that you won’t do it.
Another plus to morning exercise is the energy boost you will get in order to tackle the rest of your day. Many people are pleasantly surprised to find that exercise makes them feel less tired, not more tired. This will help you push through the work day, meetings, kids’ activities, and other family obligations.
There is also evidence to show that when you work out in the morning, your metabolism gets boosted, and stays boosted for a period of time after your workout. This is great since you still have a whole day of eating to do. Most likely, you will also feel so good about your workout that you will eat better the rest of the day as well.
Here’s a post by Tammy on starting a morning exercise routine.
Afternoon workouts are perfect for people who are not morning people, or just don’t have time to work out in the morning without having to get up at 4am. I think the greatest thing about exercising in the middle of the day is that it breaks up the day. If you stop to work out on your lunch break, it gives you a mental and physical vacation from your job. If you work out after work, it makes for a nice transition into a relaxing evening to do whatever you want.
The key to making afternoon exercise work for you is to plan. Decide where you are going to work out, what type of exercise you are going to do, and how long you are going to do it for. Also be sure to pack your gym bag or lay your workout clothes out so they are ready for you. You don’t want to give yourself excuses to not do it. Once you get into this habit, it should just become part of your day.
Another nice thing about afternoon exercising is that if you make a diet mistake in the morning, you can atone for it with your mid-day sweat session. Or if you’re planning on splurging in the evening, you can burn some calories before you do that.
Okay, I’ll be honest, I really had to think about this one because I am so not an evening exerciser. Evening workouts are for people who want a calm morning or again, just can’t get exercise in early because of their schedules. So why wait until evening instead of the afternoon? Well, maybe you have kids and you have to be with them after work. So the only time you can exercise is after they have gone to bed. Maybe you work later and don’t get home until evening. Whatever the reason, some people just have to work out in the evening.
A benefit of this is that you can blow off steam from the day. You can gather up all of the stressful things that happened that day and work through them physically. You can forget about other things for a while and just focus on you and your body.
Another great thing is that you will probably sleep better, as long as you don’t work out right before bed. You will most likely get your heart rate up, which will give you some energy for a while. But if you time it correctly, when you do go to bed, you should crash pretty hard. Your body has done most of its work for the day by the time you get to your workout, so this exercise might be the last bit your body has left.
So are there physical benefits to exercising at different times of the day? Does one time of day give you an edge over another? There are constant studies and news articles that say one time of day is better than another. And they are usually all conflicting. So I say go with the time of day you are most likely to stick with, and that fits your schedule. Remember, any exercise is always better than no exercise!