Are morning workouts better than afternoon/evening workouts? This million dollar question is one I commonly hear and the truth is that there is no easy answer. The best time of day to workout depends on each individual’s lifestyle and body goals. Today we’re sharing information on AM vs. PM sweat sessions so you can make the call.
Research and personal experience tell us that there are several factors that play into determining your best time for a workout. Below are three considerations that should be taken together when you try to identify the best time of day for you.
1) SLEEP HABITS – Now more than ever, we cannot deny the critical importance of getting 8 hours every night. Not getting enough sleep and especially depriving yourself of the good REM sleep can lead to a slew of negative impacts, including lack of coordination, increased tension and weight gain. Accordingly, you’re not doing yourself any favors if your exercise always comes at the expense of your sleep. If you are a night owl who typically gets your best sleep in the predawn hours, don’t cut into that time just to make it to a class before 8am. Alternately, note that working out late in the evening raises your heart rate and body temperature, which can disrupt your ability to fall asleep quickly and get quality rest. So pick the time of day that won’t cut into precious sleep or cut too close to your daily bedtime. This is still something I struggle with, so in all honestly, the approach I take is something of a balance. Some days I get less sleep in order to get in a workout that I know will make me feel great. Other times, I notice that I feel depleted and I prioritize another hour of rest over the sweat session.
2)BODY COMPOSITION GOALS – If you are interested in shedding pounds then morning exercise that includes cardio may be your best bet. Studies show that morning exercise on an empty stomach can burn more fat by pulling energy from stored sources instead of immediate energy sources like food in your belly. Note however, that your coordination is not as sharp in the morning hours, so you may not function as well in complex workout classes or while performing intense power training combinations as you would later in the day. If you’re interested in improved agility and building significant muscular strength, then afternoon or evening workouts are ideal because that is when our bodies have the highest levels of testosterone and our physical performance tends to be most acute.
3)CONVENIENCE – The best time of day to work out will always be the one that you can most easily sustain for the longest period of time and make into a solid routine. This convenience factor is the most important because being consistent with your workouts is ultimately what creates the most impact on body health and physique. Here are some things you can do to figure out the most convenient exercise routine for yourself:
- Research exercise options near your house and work. Any gym, trail or stadium that you can reach within 10 minutes of driving, or that you physically pass by on your way to and from work are great options. Having a workout option close by makes you more likely to stick with it since it won’t feel like a hassle to get there.
- Consider small stressors and strategize around them. Think about things that have the potential to break your commitment to working out. Maybe they’ve been issues in the past, or maybe you can already hear yourself talking about them! These could include:
- parking craziness;
- endless emails to respond to;
- family mealtimes;
- required equipment;
- advance sign-up requirements;
- no friends to sweat with, etc.
Now think about whether those stressors are more prevalent in the mornings or evenings. Once you’ve sorted that out, opt for the workout time that is less likely to be compromised by life’s pesky realities. Talk to your significant other, roommates or friends about your specific goals and you may discover the ways they can support you in realizing them!
- Test out AM vs. PM. Spend 3 weeks doing mornings and then 3 weeks doing evening workouts. It takes at least 21 days to build a habit, so stick with the test and after each 3 week period make a quick journal entry about how it felt, what you liked and what obstacles you encountered. After the full 6 weeks (42 days), compare notes to pick a time of day that you favor more.
Determining your ideal time to workout will take some testing and reflection, but it’s worth it! Despite the information about the different ways our bodies perform morning and night, above all the most important factor is consistency. Find what works for your lifestyle, add it to your calendar on a recurring basis and you will start to reap the positive benefits you seek. Good luck!