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When’s the best time of day to work out? Here’s what experts say

Morning and evening workouts offer different benefits and challenges

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A jogger runs near downtown Houston on Monday, Jan. 12, 2009.

A jogger runs near downtown Houston on Monday, Jan. 12, 2009. Exercise is beneficial to health and overall well-being at any time of the day, so does it really matter whether you work out in the morning or at night? Here’s what research has to say about the benefits of both.

David J. Phillip, Associated Press

Exercise is beneficial to health and overall well-being at any time of the day, so does it really matter whether you work out in the morning or at night? Here’s what research has to say about the benefits of both.

What are the pros of a morning workout?

The early bird gets the gains! First of all, scheduling a workout first thing in the morning leaves less room for plans to get in the way. Evening workouts may get pushed back if last-minute invites or work meetings arise.

Exercising in the morning is also beneficial to your sleep cycle. According to a study in The Journal of Physiology, creating a morning workout habit can shift your body’s circadian rhythm, resulting in increased alertness during the day and more feelings of tiredness at night, per CNET.

Morning workouts can also help when it comes to weight loss and strength-based goals:

  • According to a study published online in the British Journal of Nutrition, people who exercised in a “fasted state,” meaning that they hadn’t eaten before working out, burned almost 20% more fat compared to those who had eaten before their workout, Science Daily reported.
  • Working out in the morning may help you burn more calories. A study in science journal Cell Metabolism “indicated that exercising around mid-morning results in more oxygen being delivered to cells and yields a more rejuvenating effect on the body than exercising in the evening,” per News Medical.
  • Your workout “afterburn” also may last longer after morning workouts over afternoon workouts, Men’s Health reports. Known as Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption, or EPOC, afterburn allows your body to continue to “blast fat and calories long after you’ve left the gym,” per Genesis Health Clubs.

What are the pros of an evening workout?

If working out in the morning isn’t your jam, there’s still plenty of pros to getting a pump in at night. For one, you typically have more energy in the evening than when you first wake up, resulting in higher levels of endurance and power. This is especially great for cardio, as “research shows people who work out in the evening take up to 20% longer to reach exhaustion, so you can run, ride or swim for longer,” Men’s Health reported.

Evening workouts offer more flexibility because of their later time, resulting in:

  • Longer or better workouts. A study published in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine found evening workouts yielded stronger and better performances than morning workouts, since the body’s core temperature was up after a day’s worth of tasks.
  • More opportunities to hold yourself accountable, Shape reports. It’s a lot easier to meet someone for a workout class in the evening than it is at 6 a.m. Plus, there isn’t a chance of hitting the snooze button on your alarm at night.
  • A way to unwind from the day. Exercise releases endorphins, relieving stress and improving your overall mood, per Nivea. Fitness guru Jillian Michaels told Shape, “When I train in the evening, it helps me blow off some of the stress that has accumulated over the course (of the day).”

The bottom line

So which is better, working out in the morning or evening? Above all, the best time to work out is the time you can actually commit to and stick to each day. Find what works best for you and your personal routine and own it.