When it comes to exercise, the best time of day to get in a workout session is one that you can do consistently. Everyone is different. The “right” time depends on factors like your preference, lifestyle, and body.
While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, morning workouts do have some benefits. Let’s look at the potential perks of an early sweat session.
If you’re on the fence about starting a morning workout routine, consider the following benefits.
Morning workouts typically mean you’re less prone to distractions. When you first wake up, you haven’t started tackling the day’s to-do list. You’re also less likely to get phone calls, text messages, and emails.
With fewer distractions, you’re more likely to follow through with your workout.
Beat the heat
In the summer, working out in the morning will feel more comfortable, as the hottest part of the day is 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. It’s recommended to avoid outdoor exercise during this time.
If you prefer outdoor activities, it’s best to work out in the early morning, especially on very hot days.
Healthier food choices
An early morning workout could set the tone for a healthier day.
In a 2018 study published in the International Journal of ObesityTrusted Source, 2,680 college students completed a 15-week exercise program. Each week involved three 30-minute sessions of cardio.
The students weren’t asked to change their eating patterns. Yet, those who stuck with the program made healthier food choices, like eating less red meat and fried foods.
While the study didn’t test for the best time of day to exercise, the findings show how exercise can inspire healthier eating. Working out early may encourage you to make healthier choices throughout the day.
A morning workout may be a better match for your body’s hormonal fluctuations.
Cortisol is a hormone that keeps you awake and alert. It’s often called the stress hormone, but it only causes problems when there’s too much or too little of it.
Typically, cortisol increases in the morning and drops in the evening. It reaches its peak around 8 a.m.
If you have a healthy circadian rhythm, your body might be more primed to exercise at this time.
More overall energy
Regular exercise is excellent for boosting energy and reducing fatigue. When you work out, oxygen and nutrients travel to your heart and lungs. This improves your cardiovascular system, endurance, and overall stamina.
By exercising early, you may feel more energized throughout the day.
Physical activity also improves focus and concentration, regardless of when you do it. But if you have trouble focusing during the day, a morning workout might be just the ticket.
A 2019 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that morning exercise improves attention, visual learning, and decision-making.
In the study, participants completed a round of 8-hour days of prolonged sitting with and without a 30-minute morning walk on the treadmill. On some days, they also took 3-minute walking breaks every 30 minutes.
The days with morning exercise were associated with better cognition throughout the day, especially when paired with regular breaks.
Physical activity is a natural remedy for stress. During exercise, your brain makes more endorphins, the “feel-good” neurotransmitters behind a runner’s high. It also doubles as a distraction from anxious thoughts.
Morning exercise is a great way to start the day on the positive note. You’ll also feel a sense of accomplishment, giving you an optimistic outlook for the day.
Support weight loss
Early workouts may be best for losing weight, according to a small 2015 study published in EBioMedicineTrusted Source.
In the study, 10 young men exercised in the morning, afternoon, and evening over separate sessions. The researchers found that 24-hour fat burn was highest when they exercised in the morning before breakfast.
If you’re looking to lose weight, morning exercise may help.
In general, exercise helps regulate your appetite by reducing ghrelin, the hunger hormone. It also increases satiety hormones, like peptide YY and glucagon-like peptide-1.
However, working out in the morning may control your appetite even further.
In a 2012 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & ExerciseTrusted Source, 35 women walked on a treadmill for 45 minutes in the morning. Next, researchers measured the women’s brain waves as they viewed photos of flowers (the control) and food.
A week later, the process was repeated without morning exercise. The researchers found that the women’s brains had a stronger response to food photos when they didn’t exercise in the morning.
This suggests that morning workouts may improve how your brain responds to food cues.
Increased overall activity
The perks of an early workout don’t stop in the morning. According to the same 2012 study in Medicine & Science in Sports & ExerciseTrusted Source, morning exercise is associated with more movement throughout the day.
After walking for 45 minutes in the morning, the participants showed an increase in physical activity over the next 24 hours.
If you’re trying to live a more active lifestyle, morning exercise may lend a hand.
Blood glucose control
A 2015 study published in the Journal of Diabetes Science and TechnologyTrusted Source found that morning exercise lowers that risk. In the study, 35 adults with T1DM did two separate sessions of morning and afternoon treadmill workouts.
Compared to the afternoon sessions, morning workouts presented a lower risk of hypoglycemic events after activity.
The researchers think cortisol may be at play. Aside from increasing alertness, cortisol also helps control blood sugar. Lower levels, which occur later in the day, could make it easier for hypoglycemia to develop.
Blood pressure management
In the United States, 1 in 3 adultsTrusted Source have hypertension, or high blood pressure. Physical activity is one of the best ways to naturally control hypertension. But according to a small 2014 study published in Vascular Health and Risk ManagementTrusted Source, exercising in the morning may be the best move.
Over three separate sessions, 20 prehypertensive adults exercised on a treadmill at 7 a.m., 1 p.m., and 7 p.m. The participants also wore a medical device to monitor their blood pressure response.
The researchers found that the most favorable blood pressure changes happened on the 7 a.m. workout days.
Getting an early workout might be just what you need to get a good night’s rest. The same 2014 study in Vascular Health and Risk ManagementTrusted Source demonstrated that adults got better sleep on the days they exercised at 7 a.m.
After the morning workout, the participants spent more time in deep sleep and experienced fewer nighttime awakenings. It also took them less time to fall asleep.
Exercising outside in the morning offers even more sleep-related perks. Light exposure early in the day may help increase melatonin levels at night.
Should you eat before?
While working out before breakfast has some benefits, it’s important to stabilize your blood sugar before exercise. Otherwise, your body will have a hard time powering through your workout.
Before morning exercise, eat a light meal rich in carbs and protein. These nutrients will provide energy and prime your muscles for exercise.
Ideal pre-workout meals include:
- banana and peanut butter
- oatmeal with almond milk and berries
- Greek yogurt with apples
Eat these foods one to three hours before working out. You may need to experiment to see what time works best for you.
After exercise, you’ll need to replenish your body’s carb and protein stores. Within 15 minutes of exercising, enjoy a post-workout meal, like:
- turkey sandwich with whole-grain bread and vegetables
- smoothie with protein powder and fruit
- Greek yogurt with berries
Don’t forget to drink lots of water before, during, and after your workout.
Morning vs. evening
Generally, working out in the morning is better because it’s easier to commit to and get done before the day’s responsibilities get in the way.
In the evening, many people feel tired after work or school. It can be difficult to find motivation or time to exercise. Working out at night can also increase energy, making it hard to fall asleep.
But that’s not to say evening workouts don’t have benefits. Possible advantages include:
- Higher body temperature. Your body temperature is highest around 4 to 5 p.m. This is ideal because your muscles are already warmed up.
- Increased strength and endurance. Compared to the morning, your strength and endurance are higher in the afternoon.
- More workout buddies. It may be easier to find workout partners later in the day.
- Stress relief. After a long day, exercise can help you unwind and de-stress.
Also, different times of day may be best for different types of exercise. For example, an intense spin class may be ideal in the morning, while a relaxing yoga routine might be more practical at night.
It’s always best to exercise at the time of day that works best for you. Consistent exercise any time of day is better than inconsistent morning workouts.
Tips to get started
With time and patience, you can start your own morning workout routine. Here’s how to make it happen:
- Sleep well. A good night’s rest is essential for waking up early. Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep.
- Gradually adjust your workout time. Instead of jumping into a 6 a.m. workout, slowly move your workout time earlier and earlier.
- Prepare your workout gear. Before going to bed, set out your gym clothes, sneakers, and other workout necessities.
- Make breakfast in advance. Prepare an energizing pre-workout meal the night before.
- Meet a workout buddy. Making plans with a friend is a great way to hold yourself accountable.
- Do exercise you enjoy. Try new exercises and see what you like most. When you truly enjoy a workout, it’ll be easier to get out of bed.
If you’re looking to start a fitness routine, consider morning workouts. Early exercise will help you start the day with more energy, focus, and optimism. Plus, after a morning workout, you’re more likely eat healthy and say active throughout the day.
Despite these benefits, there isn’t a “right” time to exercise. The best time is one that you can stick with long-term.
Rad more about How to Start Exercising: A Beginner’s Guide to Working Out