The time of day you choose to exercise is entirely up to personal preference and may depend on several factors. Whether you consider yourself a 'lark' (early to bed, early to wake up person) or a 'night owl' (happy to stay up past midnight and sleep in), your lifestyle, job and body clock can dictate when is the best time to exercise for you.
However, according to science, perhaps there is a better time to exercise, providing us with more significant benefits for our body and mind. So, should we be scheduling our workouts for a particular time of day to enhance our performance and results? We're determined to find out!
Many believe that early morning is the optimal time to squeeze in a spin or gym session, getting us in top shape for the day ahead. Getting up early to exercise can create extra time in the day to workout, and for those who lead busy lives, it can be the only chance we have.
Lots of people credit early sessions for getting them ready for the day, increasing their productivity, energy levels and alertness. Some believe it can also kickstart their metabolism, burning more calories throughout the day and burning off fat for longer.
However, getting up for a 6 am run may not be the answer for everyone, and if this is your idea of a nightmare, you're in luck! Some would argue against morning workouts as if we exercise before eating, muscle (as well as desired fat) can become a source of fuel.
An early gym session may also make getting into an exercise routine difficult and harder to stick to if we aren't 'morning people' and we may have less energy and put less effort into our workouts if we haven't fully woken up yet!
Morning exercise could also increase your chance of sustaining an injury, as there is a risk of working out with cold muscles that haven't yet warmed up.
On the other end of the spectrum, many people champion an evening sweat session. Muscles are warm and flexible after being active all day, and some swear by an evening workout to relax, benefitting a better nights sleep. It can also be an excellent chance to de-stress after a busy day.
However, exercising late may not always tire us out and send us to sleep but can instead energize us, having the opposite effect. You may also not get the benefit of boosting your metabolism, which slows down as we sleep.
If you're someone who naturally struggles to switch off at night, an evening workout might not be for you!
Some research shows from a physiological point of view, the afternoon may be the best time to exercise. It's thought to be the optimal time of day because body temperature is perfect and muscles are at peak strength. This results in heightened workout performance with a low risk of injury. Some studies even suggest exercise seems more effortless in the afternoon as perceived exertion is lower later in the day - what's not to like about this!
Exercise is also more convenient for some in the afternoon, and it can be easier to motivate yourself to go and find a buddy to accompany you.
What's more, an afternoon session can get rid of the stress that has built throughout the day and can also lower the amount of food we eat in the evening.
The only downside - gyms tend to be busiest in the afternoon/evening, particularly around 5-6 pm, meaning there can often be a wait to use a machine which can disrupt the flow of your workout.
When is the Best Time to Workout?
While scientists may suggest that afternoon exercise is best for increasing workout performance and results, it is safe to say that any workout is beneficial and doing exercise at any time of day should be encouraged.
It is more important to try to do any small amount of fitness than when you choose to workout. Ultimately, you have to decide when it is right for your body and lifestyle and if you have found a time that works for you, then don't change it. It is essential to be consistent with the time you choose to workout, as your body learns to adjust to this time and prepares itself, giving you more energy.
Try exercising at different times; you will quickly discover when you are naturally most productive, and you feel the most significant benefits from your workouts.