Is There a “Best” Time Of Day For Exercise?

This question gets asked a lot in the fitness world, and it’s one worth considering if you are currently having trouble either fitting workouts into your schedule, or stagnating with your results. While there is no direct answer to this question, here are some tips to help you figure out your most optimal exercise schedule:


Are you an “early bird” or a “night owl”?

In college, Chad’s favorite time to go to the campus fitness center was an hour and a half before it closed. I would prefer to get my daily workout in before my first class of the day. The difference between the two of us? Our Circadian rhythms. Your unique Circadian rhythm has a big role in determining the fluctuations of general body functions such as temperature, hormone levels and blood pressure. Ideally, following your own Circadian rhythm would be the best way to guarantee an optimal workout. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s not that easy when we are balancing several other commitments and responsibilities. But taking note of when you feel the most energetic (AM or PM) might just help you determine whether to jump out of bed and head to the early morning workout, or sleep until the very last possible second and hit an evening workout instead.

Do you have a hard time staying consistent, or do you have a LOT going on right now?

Behavioral studies have shown that early morning exercisers are more likely than evening exercisers to consistently stick with the habit. This is especially significant for people who are just starting an exercise routine for the first time, or are who experiencing other life changes such as a new job. The basis behind this finding is that by getting your workout “out of the way” in the morning, you are less likely to have it fall behind other priorities throughout the day. So if you find yourself with the best intentions but less-than-perfect follow-through, you might want to give a morning workout a try.

Are you looking for optimal gains in strength and stamina?

There is some research that suggest both strength and endurance are, generally speaking, greater in the afternoon – to the tune of about 4-5%. Much of this has to do with that Circadian rhythm discussed above, and its effect specifically on body temperature. Researchers have found that a person’s body temperature (again, generally speaking) is greatest at around 4-5PM, and lowest just before waking. If you’re gunning to break that PR you set a month ago, or starting to train for your first endurance event, you may just find that making time to work out in the afternoon is most beneficial.

Do you have trouble falling to sleep?

While there is really no concrete evidence that evening exercise affects sleep, eating too late in the evening can hinder your ability to wind down at night – something that is absolutely crucial for both recovering from workouts and remaining sane throughout a hectic day! If working out in the evening is causing you to eat dinner at a late hour, and this in turn is causing you trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep, a morning workout might be the answer.

When it comes down to it, for most of us, the best workout schedule is the one we can make work within our normal daily or weekly schedule, and the one that makes us feel the best before, during, and after. If you feel that you are stagnating in your progress, or if scheduling conflicts or insomnia are getting in your way of having a great workout, it might just be time to switch things up a bit!

Karen Southwick