Regular physical activity is a crucial component of a fit and healthy lifestyle. Whether it's best done in the morning or evening remains open for debate. Ultimately, the decision around what time of the day to exercise is a personal one that should be made based on several factors.
Morning vs. Evening Exercise And How It Impacts Mood
Exercise is widely praised for its mood-boosting effects. Whether you choose to do it in the morning, evening, or somewhere in between, the positive impact on neurotransmitters such as endorphins and serotonin is undeniable.
The production of these "feel good" hormones early in the day can be helpful for better dealing with the stressors of the day as they arise. Exercising before others in your household wake up can also kickstart your mood and positivity for the day. That way, you might find you're ready to enjoy more positive interactions by the time others wake up.
However, some people prefer evening exercise to unload the stresses of the day and unwind. Working out with a friend can also offer positive mood-boosting effects, and it may be easier to recruit an exercise buddy later in the day!
Many people will enjoy the mood boost that comes with an early morning workout. However, those who don't like working out first thing in the morning may find their morning is calmer and more relaxed without being jolted awake with an early morning alarm. They may find it too busy and stressful to fit exercise, showering, and food into the first part of their day.
The bottom line: Morning and evening exercise both have the potential to positively affect mood. Do what works best for you.
The Battles of Willpower and Procrastination
There are fewer distractions earlier in the day, so an exercise session is less likely to get knocked off the to-do list. You're still unplugged from the digital world, and it's easier to schedule a workout without other things getting in the way.
Your "willpower battery" is more likely to be depleted later in the day, as a result of everything you have had to deal with throughout the course of the day. As a result, you might feel like you're too fatigued to exercise late in the day and would prefer to unwind in a different way (think food, alcohol, or mindless television).
Generally, it's considered easier to complete "hard things" first (for example, your exercise session) to get them out of the way. However, some people find it harder to overcome procrastination first thing in the morning.
As a result, the snooze button may get hit a few too many times, putting the morning exercise habit on a pedestal that feels too hard to reach. Ultimately, these types of individuals may have better success from centering their exercise habit around a different part of the day.
The bottom line: Do your exercise session at a time of day when it's easier for you to form a habit
Morning vs. Evening Exercise For Energy Levels and Productivity
Exercise can help you to feel more focused and less fatigued, whether it's done earlier or later in the day.
Morning workouts are often praised as superior because they can offer a morning energy boost that sets the scene for better productivity throughout the day.
While this may be true, some people may prefer to schedule a lunchtime workout to help them overcome the "mid-afternoon slump." They may enjoy added energy and productivity that takes them throughout their whole workday.
The bottom line: Take note of your energy and productivity levels based on different workout times, and decide what works best for you.
Workout Timing and Physical Performance
Once a regular exercise habit is established, most people have some sort of goal related to physical performance. Examples include improving cardiovascular fitness or increasing strength levels. A certain level of workout quality and performance is required to make progress towards these goals.
The risk of injury may be higher first thing in the morning when your muscles and joints are less flexible. This is an important performance consideration for early morning workouts. As a result, you might need to spend longer on your warm-up first thing in the morning, leaving less time for the main portion of your workout.
Although a morning workout can have beneficial effects on energy levels for the day, you might find you have more energy to work out in the evening. Additionally, with the workday over, you may have longer to spend on your workout without feeling like you need to rush.
The bottom line: Some people find they get more out of their morning workouts, and others perform better in the evening.
Morning vs. Evening Exercise and Healthy Food and Lifestyle Choices
Healthy food choices may be easier after a morning workout. Your morning workout can help set you up with the mindset you need to make healthy choices throughout the rest of your day. It may also be easier to manage cravings throughout the day.
However, fuelling up and hydrating sufficiently for your workouts is often easier later in the day. Some people may find they're fighting hunger first thing in the morning, and aren't properly compensating for overnight dehydration.
Also, for some people, better healthy habits are created by sticking to an evening workout schedule. Choosing to exercise at this time may help them say no to the temptation of hitting the local bar for regular after-work drinks or to indulging in a larger than necessary portion of dinner.
The bottom line: Identify your biggest challenges when it comes to healthy habits and decide whether exercise timing will help you overcome these challenges.
Exercise Timing and Weight Loss Results
Some studies show the potential for greater weight loss results with morning exercise. Morning exercise may offer the benefit of burning extra calories throughout the day, as a result of the lasting effects of the workout session.
There is also research to suggest that exercising in a fasted state can have a beneficial effect on fat burning. The easiest way to do this is in the early morning, after fasting overnight.
However, this approach doesn't work for everyone. It may also require additional planning in terms of food intake. Some people won't be able to exercise on a completely empty stomach so will need to plan a suitable pre-workout snack. In either case, time and planning will need to be allocated for post-workout nutrition.
The bottom line: Exercise timing for weight loss results should be determined on an individual basis.
Exercise Timing and Improvement With Other Health Markers
Morning exercise may help to improve other health markers such as blood pressure when compared with evening exercise. Some studies suggest that morning exercise helps support a better quality of sleep. However, others suggest that evening exercise doesn't negatively impact the quality of sleep, and may even help improve it. Overall it's best to learn what works best for you personally.
Morning exercise may not be a great idea if you're opting for it at the expense of sleep. Sufficient, good quality sleep is crucial for optimal health, and if you're restricting your sleep period to get in your morning workout, then consider whether there is a better approach for you.
Effective and sustainable early morning workouts may mean that you need to gradually shift towards an earlier bedtime. Alternatively, you might find a better time during your day for your exercise session.
The bottom line: Regular physical activity will help you improve your health. Work out the best time to fit it into your lifestyle regularly, to reap the benefits.
Ultimately, morning and evening exercise can have different effects and benefits. The morning will be a better choice for exercise time for some people, and working out later in the day will work better for others.
Find out more about healthy habits in "Encouraging Employees to Achieve Healthy Eating and Fitness Goals in the Workplace."