a guy in a squatted position about to execute a deadlift with two large black weights on the barbell

When is the best time to exercise?

An age-old debate in the health industry is what time in the day is the best to exercise?

I have always been an avid afternoon gym goer – mainly because (1) I’m not the best early worm and (2) I enjoy moving my body after a long day in the office. However, I am also very good at finding excuses to skip the post-work gym. The usual excuse being other commitments and just complete exhaustion some days.

For so long, I had contemplated shifting my schedule to waking up earlier and hitting the gym – only to hit the snooze button instead. When I first researched the benefits of morning exercise and compared it to research on the benefits of evening exercise, I was left feeling even more indecisive… because there wasn’t a blatant reason that truly convinced me of a solution.

Over the past two to three weeks I have shifted my routine and incorporated morning exercise to see what differences I might notice and whether AM exercise is something I can consistently endure…

First things first – no matter what time of day you exercise, it’s important to note the plethora of benefits regular physical activity has on our physical and mental well-being!

According to Noma Nazish for ForbesLife, consistent exercise can help to decrease body fat, increase muscle and bone strength, improve cardiovascular health, boost your immune system, and of course, reduce stress and improve sleep – what’s not to love.

Now let’s explore the benefits behind morning and evening exercise.

Morning Exercise:

  • Easier to establish a fitness routine I have found that exercising in the morning gave me less of an opportunity to think up excuses as I often did in the afternoon… besides pressing the snooze button…
  • Improved sleep cycle Another thing I noticed was how much earlier I was falling asleep! Obviously, the result of waking up earlier is going to bed earlier. But I also discovered that my circadian rhythm synced with the new routine much faster than what I had initially thought. As a result, I was feeling much more alert in the mornings and more tired before bed.
  • Fat burning properties Some research has shown that exercising first thing after waking can help burn more body fat. When you wake, you’re in a fasted state, and so your body will utilise stored fat to fuel your body as your exercise. However, I recommend eating a substantial meal the night before or having a carb-loaded snack such as a banana or slice of peanut butter toast on the way to the gym to support energy levels.
  • Improved energy levels The morning gym has been just as powerful, if not more, than that first cup of coffee in the morning. I’ve noticed an increase in my energy and focus as I sit down to begin the working day after hitting the gym earlier in the morning.
  • Early bird gets the worm Another positive to morning exercise has been an increase in my mood during the day. This is due to the chemicals your body releases when you exercise, otherwise known as endorphins! These ‘happy chemicals’can help in sustaining an elevated mood during the day. Also, there was a greater sense of accomplishment after my morning exercise as I set out for the day in a cheerful mood.

What does the team at SportUNE think?

We asked some of the SportUNE staff and members what their favourite to exercise is and why!

“I am a morning person and love to get up early! It gives me energy for the day. I would not have the energy to exercise in the afternoon after a long day. Win the morning, win the day I say!” – Merlee

Best time to exercise at the gym

“I like mornings. I feel more energised for the rest of the day because after midday I get tired and want to sleep. But I will also train in the afternoon and often feel a lot better if I had a bad day.” – Justin

SportUNE staff member Justin on the squat rack

“I enjoy training in the mornings. It gives me energy and starts the day off right. I feel like I’ve accomplished something already.” – Sathvik

Best time to exercise at the gym

The morning sounds pretty good for those looking to start their day on a brighter note as the SportUNE staff and members have suggested above… so how does evening exercise compare? Let’s take a look. 👀

Evening Exercise:

  • Peak performance I’ve found that I could lift heavier in the afternoons – and just attributed this to having more energy because I’d already consumed two meals during the day. According to Marlene Cimons for the Washington Post, many elite athletes seeking a new PB will often train in the evening, and research has shown that people who exercise in the evening take up to 20% longer to reach the point of exhaustion. This is because of higher levels of testosterone in both men and women in the afternoon, as well as our core temperature being warmer compared to first thing in the morning – therefore resulting in greater strength and muscle gains.
  • Relieve stress from the day Possibly the greatest benefit to exercising in the evening is being able to release tension after a long day in the workplace. Endorphins don’t discriminate on the time of day, and so if you’re looking to leave the worries of the day behind, then evening exercise may be your jam!
  • Improved afternoon habits Evening exercise can also help form constructive patterns within your afternoon and help to replace habits you might be looking to break, such as alcohol consumption, or spending too much time on social media, or Netflix binging.
  • Boost energy Like morning exercise, working out in the evening can give you added energy to get you through the afternoon. I often found exercising straight after work allowed me a boost of energy to accomplish the evening chores such as cooking dinner and studying, and often found my mind was a lot clearer too!
  • Also, improved sleep Exercising in the evening can also improve sleep. There’s nothing like a hot shower after a gruelling HIIT session to set you up for a restful sleep. So long as you give yourself a few hours between intensive exercise and bedtime to avoided feeling wired after exerting yourself. Practicing yoga or mindfulness can help you on your way to a restful sleep!

The Verdict:

What I can conclude is that my best workout is the one I just do. A consistent exercise routine and diet is how you will see results whether your goals are weight loss or strength gains. The research will suggest that morning exercise can increase fat-burning properties, whilst evening exercise can increase strength gains. But it’s important to note that whatever time you decide to exercise is a time that you can consistently meet and include as part of your daily routine. Professional trainers will mention that just like your body knows when to wake and sleep at the same time every day, your body will also know when it’s time to exercise if you maintain a routine.

It’s a matter of finding the routine that best suits you and sticking to it!

The information in this article is intended for informational purposes only and should not replace health or medical advice. We advise consulting a doctor with any health-related questions you may have. 


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