While some people are up at the crack of dawn to lace up their running shoes, others can’t fathom a workout before noon. Finding the perfect time to exercise is as much about personal preference as it is physiology.
Does the early bird always get the worm? In the land of exercise, many experts feel that morning workouts hold greater advantages than those in the evening, while other fitness professionals believe the opposite to be true. With science to back both fields of thought, who is right? Does it even matter? To help end the debate, I’ve rounded up a thorough list of advantages for both sides of the argument to find out: Which is more beneficial, a morning sweat session or an evening workout?
Advantages to Working Out in the Morning
1. Consistency: Generally speaking, it is easier for an individual to stay on track with a fitness regime first thing in the morning because there is less time for family, evening plans, commuting, late nights in the office, and other distractions to get in the way. Fatigue from a long day can also lead to skipped evening workouts.
2. Avoiding crowds: Fitness centres see the most traffic between 5 and 8 p.m., making it difficult to get the machine or group fitness class you really want. Mornings see less traffic making a.m. workouts more efficient. And while there may be an influx of gym-goers between 6 and 8 a.m., these patrons tend to get in and get out within a fixed amount of time, leaving no room for socialisation and clogging up the gym floor.
3. Convenience: You can basically go to bed in workout attire (sneakers excluded), wake up and pop in your favourite fitness DVD or head straight outdoors for a walk or run. It might sound odd, but many of my clients do this to capitalise on the “seize the day” attitude!
4. Healthy breakfast: When a person starts her routine with exercise, she is typically setting herself up for a healthy domino effect throughout the day. Say, for example, you start the day at the gym. This is often followed by a healthy post-workout shake or snack and an increased water intake all morning long. Getting your workout in the morning makes it easier to incorporate a balanced breakfast into your schedule, setting you up for a day of healthy eating.
5. Sleep: Knowing you have an a.m. sweat session may be motivation enough to hit the sack sooner, so those extra-early mornings may actually result in more sleep at night. Getting enough shut-eye is of utmost importance when it comes to weight. Research has shown that people crave unhealthy food when they are sleep-deprived because of levels of leptin, a hormone that tells your brain that you are full drops by 18 percent while levels of ghrelin, which stimulates appetite, increases 28 percent. Lack of sleep also raises the stress hormone cortisol, which can lead to overeating as well.
Advantages to Working Out in the Evening
1. Strength: Hitting the snooze button a few times just before you crawl onto the treadmill might have you sleep walking on the machine, as opposed to logging in a few tough miles before work. This feeling of tiredness and inability to concentrate can lead to injury, which will ultimately keep you sidelined. On the opposite side of the coin, an individual who works out later in the day has the opportunity to eat and fuel her body for a tough workout.
2. Stress relief: Studies have linked weight gain to increased stress levels, thanks to the release of cortisol. Further research has shown that this hormone can increase an individual’s desire to eat bad-for-you foods. Having an outlet, such as a kickboxing or personal training, at the end of the workday can provide a healthy way to release daily stresses—a far better option than hitting a happy hour!
3. Accountability: It tends to be easier to find a friend, colleague, or personal trainer who is willing to meet you for an evening workout than one who’s up for a 5 a.m.-cardio session.
4. Availability: Gyms offer a larger variety of classes after work than in the morning hours. Plus, a packed post-work class may push you to compete against fellow gym-goers and work harder to get the most from your routine.
5. Safety: Walking home from an evening workout alongside fellow classmates and commuters can be a whole lot safer than hitting the road for an early morning run or lone workout.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what works best in your routine. Remember, consistency is key, so find the time that allows you to stick to it. More than anything, just showing up matters more than when you do!