Many struggle to fit exercising in around their morning routine due to the constraints of work, children or other commitments that are more attractive than working up a sweat – such as hitting the snooze button. In the evenings, however, we’re often brain-dead from the day’s demands, and once we’re home, all we want to do is put our feet up and enjoy an evening spent doing nothing before heading to bed at a “reasonable” time… which, after the inevitable “just one more episode” bedtime routine, often ends up looking more unreasonable.
So, if you do want to re-jig your strict schedule to fit in a keep-fit session, when is better to squeeze in a workout? Is it better to exercise in the morning or in the evening?
Studies have shown that different fitness goals are better achieved at different parts of the day. As protein synthesis peaks at later times of the day, for example, vigorous exercises such as heavy weight training or high-intensity cardio may be best performed in the early evening.
That aside, we’ve done the hard work for you (the research) to find out what time of day is best for working out in general…
Simply put, by exercising first-thing, your workout will be over and done with, and you won’t spend the rest of the day dreading it.
There is also evidence to suggest that exercising on an empty stomach is the best way to, as working out before eating has been shown to enhance fat-burning.
According to the Huffington Post, it is easier to kick-off a routine when you schedule in workouts for the morning. There is research to show that those who exercise in the mornings are more consistent exercisers than those who choose to do so later on in the day.
Exercising in the morning is also often linked to having an increase in productivity, providing you with more energy for the rest of the day’s endeavours.
You’re more likely to have a better diet and make healthier food choices throughout the day when you workout first thing. This is because you won’t want to undo your hard work with junk food, and will want to continue feeling fresh and energised, which we all know food can effect.
Having said this, exercising in the morning boosts your metabolism. You will continue to burn calories into the day, long after the workout is complete. So if you are partial to some sugary snacks, after a morning exercise is the best time to treat yourself. Bonus!
Especially for workout beginners, recovery is essential. If you go from working out early morning straight into a day of work, you may feel stiff and drained of energy, which might hinder the rest of the day for you.
Sacrificing sleep. If you are going to choose to work out in the morning, make sure you get to bed a little earlier the night before.
For those with children or long commutes, working out in the morning is just not an option. If you’re lacking in time, you could consider getting to work on foot or getting off public transport a stop early to squeeze in a little extra exercise each day.
If you are a natural night owl – i.e. you prefer staying up later in the evenings than getting up earlier – you may find that you work harder and expel more energy at night, and so this time of day for exercise is best for you, as it heightens your performance.
Swiss researchers found that in a study on vigorous exercise, working out 1 and ½ hours before bed enabled participants to fall asleep faster and have a less disturbed sleep pattern (fewer awakenings).
The likelihood of injury is also decreased, as your muscles are more flexible after having been used and stretched throughout the day.
What About Midday?
Evidently, exercising at whatever time of the day is all down to personal taste. After all, working out at a silly hour is better than not working out at all. Exercising consistently at the same time each day is one of the best predictors of developing a long-lasting exercise habit.
But after taking on board the points made above, you may believe it to be most suitable to run in the middle of the day, as surely then all of the advantages mentioned apply.
Obviously, this is not a practical option for those that work full-time. If you’re on holiday, self-employed or happen to have spare time in the middle of the day, however, then bully for you. Just make sure to leave at least 2 hours after eating a meal before working out.
Written by: Natalie Green