The Better Workout: Morning, Afternoon or Evening?

Your alarm clock goes off, you roll out of bed, yawn, stretch and stumble to the coffee maker. Is now the best time to work out? Or should you wait to exercise until the afternoon or evening? Will it even make a difference?

You’re about to find out.

Exercise in the Morning

When you first wake up, your core body temperature is relatively low, and you’re usually not quite as mentally alert or sharp as you are in the afternoon. This makes sense — you’re still waking up!

But based on something called a “morning-evening score,”some people wake up just a bit more quickly in the morning and can be more creative and focused at this time of day. For these individuals, exercise may be just a bit easier to handle from a mental standpoint.

Regardless of whether you’re more alert mentally in the morning, the fact that your temperature tends to be lower means that the best type of exercise to do in the morning (if you’re going to exercise) is something easy and light, such as a brisk aerobic walk, an easy swim or some yoga.

Exercise in the Afternoon or Evening

In the afternoon and evening, two things happen:

Based on these two facts, you should save any type of intense workout — such as a weight training session or hard cardiovascular intervals — for the afternoon or evening.

For ideal sleep, you shouldn’t be doing intense exercise within two hours of bedtime, so you should try to have any intense afternoon or evening workouts finished by that point.

Exercise Timing Tips

What if you don’t have the luxury to time your workouts and you only have the morning or only have the afternoon/evening to exercise?

If you can only exercise in the morning, you’re still going to get more benefit from doing an intense workout compared to doing only a light workout or not exercising at all — but your body may need some help jump-starting. Try a special sunrise alarm clock that will fill your room with light, use moderate amounts of caffeine from coffee or tea and ease into your workout slowly.

On the other hand, if you can only exercise in the afternoon or evening, then you’ll probably have an easier time getting started compared to a morning-only workout, but you shouldn’t necessarily do hard, intense workouts every day. Instead, have at least a couple days a week where you do an easier, aerobic workout in the afternoon or evening, and on those days, it won’t be quite as important to prioritize a pre-workout meal or a long warm-up.

Finally, remember that the best time of day to exercise is the time of day during which you’re most likely to actually do it!