Are you wondering when is the best time to work out that gives you the most rewards? Take a look at what I discovered as the best time to work out!
the best TIME TO Work out
Have you ever wondered whether there are benefits to working out at a specific time of day? For example, do you benefit from working out in the morning by starting out your day with your metabolism in overdrive? Or is it better to get more sleep and have additional energy reserves to workout in the evenings? I am going to help you figure out when is the best to work out for you!
Me: Working out in the mornings
I’ve always thought that working out in the mornings is most efficient for me personally for a couple of reasons. 1- there are no other competing priorities to get me off track 2- I can mark it off my to-do list and start my day with a priority win. Although I prefer morning workouts, I have honestly worked out at every imaginable time of the day to accommodate my schedule, as it has changed over the years.
The seasons I’ve worked out consistently in the early morning, I’ve been in the best shape of my life. Honestly. I think this is because if you’re willing to start a run or workout at 5:30 am, you’re not going to squander your time. If you are trading (on some level) exercise for sleep, you cherish that time. Because of the fact that I’ve been in the best shape of my life during these seasons, I’ve always felt good about morning workouts. I’m focused and disciplined to go to bed early, get up early, fuel my body with healthy foods and pay close attention to what my body tells me. I’ll also say that during these periods of time I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with incredible people who have become some of my very best friends over the years. That kind of bonding tends to happen while running or working out in the wee-morning hours with someone. To me this was the best time to work out. If you don’t believe me, I dare you. Give it a go. You’ll be delighted at the outcome.
I love starting my day with a win. We all know how it feels to get to the end of the day and think, “What the heck did I accomplish today?” If you exercise first thing in the morning, you will have one important task marked off your to-do list. You can claim a small victory, no matter what other time thief comes along to disrupt your day.
Me: Working out mid-morning to late afternoon
I’ve worked from home for the last 16 years and have been blessed with the flexibility to put my workout clothes on first thing in the morning in anticipation of a free hour to jet out the door on a quick run or bike ride between meetings, phone calls or over lunchtime. This flexibility has turned me into someone who has benefited from occasional afternoon sweat sessions. The downside is that I may be wearing my workout clothes all day waiting for that “golden” hour to appear and subsequently wait to shower until after that. Even though workouts are a high priority on my daily to-do list, I have to be honest, so are showers. 🙂
When I leave my workouts to chance, ducking out between meetings or calls, it’s not feasible to coordinate with a friend. So, I go at these daytime workouts alone. It’s honestly not my favorite option, but it has had to do during certain seasons in my life.
Me: Working out evenings
There have been other seasons where I’ve worked in a traditional office each day and have been discipline at exercising directly after work. I would take my clothes in a gym bag and rush straight to the gym for a session or class. I looked forward to that time, because I could count on seeing the same people at the gym around the same time each day. It seems that those who have workout routines in the evenings are pretty dedicated as well.
I enjoyed evening workouts very much before I had kids. My time in the evenings was all my own, and I wasn’t taking away from family time, nor did it mean I was trading a home cooked meal for takeout when I chose to exercise. Exercising in the evenings now seems to get in the way of kids activities and dinner unless I am home by 6, which can challenging.
Informal survey: When do you prefer to workout & why?
I conducted an informal survey with some friends and family that I know to workout consistently. The folks in the survey have exercised with me directly or I have known in the neighborhood to exercise, first hand. I also know they’ve exercised for years and likely decades on a regular basis. I am excited to share what I learned and draw a few conclusions. I wonder what you may learn from this impressive group.
There were 18 participants, including me.
Prefer EARLY mornings ( I am defining as 6:30 am or earlier): 7 people
Prefer Mid-mornings ( I am defining as 7-10 am): 6 people
Prefer Lunchtime: Not one person chose this time
Prefer After-Work / Evenings: 2 people
Evenings during work week & Mornings on Weekends: 3 people
Why they workout when they do
Here are some of the reasons I heard for choosing the times they did:
- If I workout early enough, I may still be half asleep when I finish. 🙂
- I can focus better the rest of the day if I workout in the morning.
- I can check it off my list and attend to other things the rest of the day.
- If I workout in the mornings, I am not distracted by obligations like church, family or work.
- I am too tired to workout after work, so I need to do it in the morning.
- I have more energy in the mornings, so I prefer to exercise then.
- I am more likely to run versus walk if I exercise in the morning. Plus, the earlier the better for me. I am more motivated at 6 am than 8 am.
- If I don’t exercise first thing in the morning, I likely won’t get to it the rest of the day.
- Nights work best for me so that I can come home with an endorphin high and sleep better, too.
- I like having the workday and my carpooling duties out of the way so I can enjoy my workout afterwards.
- After work I can work off the stresses of the day before I go home.
- I feel accomplished for the rest of the day when I workout in the mornings.
Observations of this fabulous crew
- All three of the people, who workout at night during the week and mornings on the weekends, said that they’d prefer to workout mornings everyday but that their jobs and/or carpooling duties wouldn’t allow for it. That’s something to consider, because if you take this into account, 89% of this group, who has consistently exercised for years upon years, prefers to workout in the mornings. I think this is a significant number, and I believe you will too, once you read what Dr. Hackney has to say about creating habits and morning exercise I’ve bolded in the details below.
- Another thing I find noteworthy is that several people mentioned that although they prefer mornings, they are flexible to workout whenever, should their schedule require it. I didn’t ask about flexibility, but if I did my guess is that every single one of them would have said they make exercise a priority and do what they need to fit their workouts in.
- Every person that I asked to be part of the survey took part in the survey. I even got information from two husbands as a bonus! This tells me that taking care of their bodies through physical activity is a priority for this group. I’ll even go as far as to say that they want to talk about it. They like talking about it. Pretty cool.
- They know what they like and why they like it. It was very clear from the responses that this elite group knew exactly their preferred time of day to get their sweat on and why. Very likely they’ve tried working out at various time of the day to get a feel for what works best. How can you really know unless you try?
- They are savvy. Some made mention of the fact that they prefer to workout in the morning on an empty stomach. Others said they like to have coffee first but no breakfast. Someone said they like to have breakfast, do some household chores and then exercise. The point is that everyone is different, and that is okay. I promise the best way is your way. Keep reading!
What Dr. Anthony Hackeny studies & teaches
Anthony Hackney, a professor in the department of exercise and sport science at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, believes morning workouts give the biggest edge. While afternoon workouts come in as a close second, and nighttime workout still have some perks. We’ll discuss the specifics below.
Benefits of MORNING exercise – best for burning more fat
- In the morning you draw more of your energy from you fat reserves.
- If you exercise in the morning, you may have less of an appetite for the balance of the day.
- Research suggests exercise can more easily become habit forming in the mornings. Your body quickly adapts and becomes more alert during the days and sleepy at night.
- Because exercise reduces stress, doing it in the morning may lead to a more productive day and better mental health.
Benefits of AFTERNOON exercise – best for long rigorous workouts
- Afternoon workouts may offer a boost in performance, given they’re after a meal or two has been consumed. A result of eating is that your blood levels rise, and sugar, in the form of glucose, is one of the things our body needs to perform at a higher intensity.
- We often need an afternoon pick-me-up, and a workout can do just that, give you the perk, energy and focus you need to get through the day.
- A study from 2018 found that our bodies burn around 10% more calories in the afternoon, when comparing to exercising in the morning or at night. The caveat is that bodies were studied at rest, so additional studies must be conducted to be certain, but it’s possible you may get a calorie burn boost by exercising in the afternoon.
Benefits of NIGHTTIME exercise – most convenient time for most people
- Exercising after work or school tends to be the most convenient time for most people.
- Although exercising at night has been thought to interfere with your sleep, Hackney isn’t convinced of that and only cautions not to immediately follow your post-workout shower with bedtime.
- The studies and evidence suggesting morning workouts are best for burning fat are stronger than those for nighttime workouts. However, there is data supporting that over time nighttime workouts can decrease the hunger-stimulating hormone, ghrelin.
For me, there have been many times in my life where I’ve just wanted to know THE answer. For example, what’s THE answer to get my kids to eat something, anything healthy? What’s THE answer to get my baby to sleep more than 90 minutes at a time and so on. At this stage in my life, with 3 teenagers and a tween, I know that most problems have more than one solution, and most questions have more than one answer. Given that, I am at complete peace and even thankful knowing that I can choose what works best for me, my body and my schedule, in terms of the time of day I get my sweat on. AND, so can you!
If you’re still trying to figure it out, take the mystery out of it and try them all out. Seriously! Yes, I am giving you permissions to try out all of the times your schedule allow you. You may want to give yourself a couple of weeks for each option to truly get an idea of which option “clicks” for you. You may consider taking notes about how you feel during the day: hungry, tired, focused, energetic, are you sleeping well, etc.
Here is what I know to be true, the bottom line is that the best time to work out is when you can and will exercise! Please email me about your wellness journey for a chance to be featured in one of my articles, firstname.lastname@example.org.
be sure to share in the comments when you have found is the best time to work out for you!
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