There is conflicting information on how when you work out affects the results, but this connection is continuously studied. What researchers do know is that people are in different mental and physical states at different times of the day. Most research and disagreement is between morning and evening workouts, and the confusion exists because both have benefits.
Getting it Over With in the Morning
The reality is that some people don't love to exercise but still realize the benefit it can have on mental and physical health. Exercising in the morning before work or school leaves the rest of the day to whatever else needs to be addressed. The motivation lies in knowing it won't have to be done later.
Morning Workouts Provide Additional Weight Loss
If the goal of a workout is weight loss, mornings may be the best option to facilitate that. Most people have gone at least eight hours without food upon waking up in the morning. Research shows a workout after a fasting period can oxidize more fat than working out after recently eating, which is difficult to avoid later in the day. This is due to the body having to rely on fat stores for energy, as opposed to the carbohydrates it just consumed.
Better Sleep at Night from a Morning Workout
The link between exercise and sleep is not fully understood, but researchers do know that exercise improves sleep quality. Exercise may shift the circadian rhythm towards a deeper rest, which can mean fewer sleep interruptions at night and a more restful feeling during the day. Evening workouts may actually hinder sleep because exercise releases endorphins that tend to promote wakefulness until they ease off. A workout before bed will also increase your body temperature, and the body often needs to cool before falling asleep.
A Morning Routine is More Consistent
The most important part of any exercise plan is building the routine. Once the day begins, there are any number of excuses not to work out, but some people find they have fewer excuses or distractions first thing, especially if their workout clothes are already laid out and they don't have to worry about having to get dressed and styled twice.
Morning Workouts Can Lead to More Productivity During the Day
Most people are well aware of the physical benefits of exercise, sometimes to the extent of overlooking the mental health wins. A morning workout may begin with a bit of grogginess, but the after effects have been shown to improve mental ability on work-related tasks. A bout of morning exercise can improve the likelihood that one will begin tasks; it can also improve executive function — the planning, organization, and attention required to complete a task — as well as general working memory.
Already Warmed Up in the Evening
When waking up, the muscles are colder and body temperature is much lower than they are later in the day. A slow and lengthy warmup session is required to safely exercise early in the morning. An evening workout has the advantage of a body that has already warmed up throughout the day. Peak body temperature occurs around 6 pm, making an after-work trip to the gym the perfect time to get a workout. However, it is important to prepare the body for exercise, whatever the time of day.
Evenings Provide Better Workout Performance
If the goal of a workout is to maximize performance, evenings may be the best option. The ability of the body to process oxygen increases significantly in the evenings. The results of one study showed a 20% increase in the length of time the participants were able to exercise. This could mean better workouts, better performance, and more calories burned.
Relieve Stress With an Evening Workout
The end of a workday brings stress and anxiety that can impede an otherwise relaxing evening. Evening exercise could help alleviate the negative feelings many people experience at this time of day. Working out releases dopamine and endorphins that increase energy and happiness. The release of these chemicals during exercise has been linked to a reduction in stress, anxiety, and depression.
More Workout Options Available in the Evening
An early-morning exercise may leave options limited to the gym or a local park. In contrast, more variety of fitness offerings tend to be available in the evenings. More light could allow for hiking or kayaking in the summer months. Class options abound, including dancing, yoga, and boxing. It is also an easier time on many schedules to arrange workout buddies.
Evening Workouts Prevent Unhealthy Eating
For some, late-night hunger is hardest to overcome for any healthy eating plan. Research shows that a workout can change the levels of ghrelin and leptin in the body, two chemicals associated with hunger. Lower hunger levels after exercise can make it easier to skip that after-dinner snack.