Morning or Evening? Why your workout start time matters

Most individuals agree that the best time to work out is relative to when we can squeeze it into our busy schedules. 


For some, hitting the ground running is the ideal start to the day, while others might drop into a favorite group class at lunchtime or after work. No doubt you’ve driven by a busy park to see runners and walkers enjoying working up a sweat at their favorite park at sunset. Or maybe you observed fitness lovers burning the midnight oil and pumping iron way past a normal hour. 


The point is — there are seemingly endless options for picking a time to exercise. But does the time you exercise actually matter? Does working out at a certain time guarantee better results? Keep reading to learn why the time you choose to exercise matters. 

The best time to exercise the argument for early birds

Thinking logically, there are a vast number of benefits to working out in the morning. First, you’ll get your workout done and over with before you even start your day, which helps reduce distractions and boost confidence. Biologically speaking, some experts also swear that a morning jump start to the day also gives people an edge when it comes to getting results on the scale.


According to a study conducted by researchers in Illinois, exercising in the morning with an empty stomach (a fasted state) is more effective at stoking the body to burn stored fat, making it ideal for weight loss. 


Health experts argue that this phenomenon is largely because of the body’s hormonal composition during morning hours. When we wake up, our bodies naturally have elevated levels of cortisol and growth hormone in the morning (HGH), both of which are involved in metabolism, thus encouraging our bodies to draw more energy from fat reserves. This insight can be compelling for individuals whose end goal is to lose weight quickly. 


Additionally, beyond burning calories, working out in the morning can also:


  • Create more repeatable routines 
  • Help you avoid higher temperatures later in the day
  • Encourage you to eat healthier
  • Boost your energy throughout the day
  • Improve alertness, focus and cognition
  • Improve better mood
  • Lower risk of diabetes
  • Improve sleep 


The best time to exercise Night Owls’ sweet deal

A vast majority of individuals choose to work out in the afternoon and early evening (gym attendance typically peaks between 4-7 p.m.). In addition to maybe getting an extra hour of sleep than their peers who exercise in the morning, fitting in exercise in the afternoon or after hours has its own perks. 


As we discussed, morning workouts have a reputation for burning fat, while afternoon workouts are believed to boost performance. 


Scientists studying the correlation between body temperature and muscle output discovered the human body’s ability to perform peaks in the afternoon between 2 to 6 p.m. During these hours, the body’s temperature peaks and, along with the temperature rise, reaches optimal muscle function and strength, enzyme activity, and endurance for performance. This indicates the afternoon is the most effective time of day to work out for those looking to build muscle.


Further, recent research has found a direct link between evening exercise and the body’s risk of developing diabetes. One such study found that men at risk for diabetes had greater blood sugar control and lost more belly fat when they exercised in the afternoon than in the morning. And another released earlier this month by researchers in the Netherlands concluded that engaging in regular exercise late in the day improves blood glucose control among older adults. The supported findings of both studies showcase the particular benefits those at risk of developing diabetes can achieve with regular afternoon workouts. 


In addition to these benefits, working out in the afternoon or evening can also:


  • Provide post-work/school stress relief 
  • Help regulate your body’s internal clock 
  • Improve alertness and avoid an afternoon slump
  • Reduce body tension from sitting
  • Provide more time for longer exercises
  • Help avoid harmful after-work vices like fast food and alcohol 


Early Birds & Night Owls: We’re here to help

We partner with our patients to help them reclaim their health and get back to doing what they love. Our health and wellness team is currently accepting new patients and is standing by to assist you with medically-proven therapeutic treatment programs to help you reach your wellness goals. Best of all, when walking through our doors, you can expect friendly, knowledgeable and compassionate care, plus dependable access to your doctor. Request an appointment today or call us at 904-724-5767. 


*Individuals should speak with their primary care physician to ensure they are healthy enough to engage in strenuous exercise, like running, walking, cycling, swimming or other similar activities. When exercising in public, always remain aware of your surroundings. 

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