What is your go-to workout time? Is it after work or do you work up a sweat first thing in the morning? There’s really no WRONG time to exercise. The most important thing is that you do it. Nike was right when they coined that slogan!
However, there are some compelling reasons to fit your workout in the morning rather than later in the day. But this advice only applies to one type of training – aerobic exercise. Strength training might best be left for later in the day. You’ll soon find out why. But first, here are five reasons why doing aerobic exercise is best in the morning.
Boost Your Metabolism
This one is a bit controversial. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that exercising first thing in the morning, in a fasted state, boosted fat burning by around 20%. But other research shows exercising before eating doesn’t increase overall calorie burn over a 24-hour period.
Plus, you might discover that you can’t put forth the same effort when in a fasted state. This is particularly true if you’re doing high-intensity exercise where fuel usage shifts toward a higher percentage of carbohydrates. Your glycogen stores are low after an overnight fast and your muscles simply don’t have the glycogen reserves to maximize performance.
Based on the research that’s out there, you MAY derive some additional fat-burning benefits if you exercise before breakfast. But, make sure you’re doing moderate-intensity cardio. For high-intensity sweat sessions, fuel up beforehand so you can maximize how hard you work. If you can’t give it your best effort in the morning, it’s best to wait until later in the day.
Studies show that having a set exercise time each day helps with consistency and, as you know, consistency is important for success with any fitness program. If you exercise as soon as you wake up before other obligations get in the way, you’re more likely to follow through and ace the consistency factor. The more the exercise habit becomes ingrained, the better.
Working out as soon as you wake up means there’s less time to let excuses get in the way. A 2020 study found that exercising at a consistent time, especially in the morning, made it more likely that subjects would stick with their workout program. Plus, it helped with weight control. If you find yourself making excuses not to work out, try exercising in the morning.
On a Monday morning, having endorphins circulating in your system is a plus. We know that exercise is a mood booster and that comes in handy when you’re tackling the first day of the week. When you do aerobic exercise, it boosts the release of natural chemicals, like endorphins, that enhance mood. You’ve heard of the runner’s high that scientists believe may be related to endorphin release, but you can boost endorphins by doing other forms of aerobic exercise too. Plus, aerobic exercise causes changes in neurotransmitters, like serotonin and dopamine, that have mood-boosting benefits. What a way to get the day off on a positive note! There’s nothing that wakes you up faster and gets you ready to tackle your day more than a workout.
Are you struggling to fall asleep at night? Research finds that exercising in the morning improves sleep more than working out at other times of the day. One study found that people who exercised in the morning and did at least 3.5 hours of exercise weekly (in the morning) fell asleep faster and with less difficulty.
According to Sleep.org, exercise increases overall sleep time and boosts the amount of time we spend in the deeper stages of sleep, which are the most restorative. This is beneficial for mental and physical health. Sleep medications have side effects while exercise offers only positives. If you toss and turn at night, try shifting your workouts to the morning and see if it helps.
Blood Pressure Benefits
Could working out in the morning have more blood pressure benefits? A study published in the journal Vascular Health and Risk Management measured the blood pressure response when adults with borderline hypertension performed aerobic exercise at three times of day: 7 A.M., 1 P.M., and 7 P.M. The participants experienced the greatest improvements in blood pressure when they worked out at 7 A.M. They also experienced improvements in their sleep patterns.
The Bottom Line
Now you have five reasons to exercise in the morning but find what works for you. These benefits apply mainly to aerobic exercise and moderate-intensity workouts. For strength workouts, you may perform better later in the day. Studies show that body temperature peaks in the late afternoon or early evening and that makes your muscles more pliable. If you strength train in the morning, do a longer warm-up and start with lighter weights to prep your muscles.
Ultimately, you should work out at a time that you’ll be most consistent with. Without consistency, you won’t get far, but for many people, morning workouts work best for staying consistent. Find what works for you and keep doing it!
- British Journal of Nutrition. Access Volume 110, Issue 4 28 August 2013 , pp. 721-732.
- com. “Tip: The Most Important Key to Workout Consistency”
- Schumacher LM, Thomas JG, Raynor HA, Rhodes RE, Bond DS. Consistent Morning Exercise May Be Beneficial for Individuals With Obesity. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2020 Oct;48(4):201-208. doi: 10.1249/JES.0000000000000226. PMID: 32658039; PMCID: PMC7492403.
- Fairbrother K, Cartner B, Alley JR, et al. Effects of exercise timing on sleep architecture and nocturnal blood pressure in prehypertensives. Vasc Health Risk Manag. 2014;10:691-698. Published 2014 Dec 12. doi:10.2147/VHRM.S73688.
- “Morning Exercise May Help You Sleep – WebMD.” 04 Nov. 2003, https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/news/20031104/morning-exercise-may-help-you-sleep.
- “How Exercise Affects Sleep | Sleep.org.” 24 Mar. 2021, https://www.sleep.org/exercise-affects-sleep/.
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- Schumacher LM, Thomas JG, Raynor HA, Rhodes RE, O’Leary KC, Wing RR, Bond DS. Relationship of Consistency in Timing of Exercise Performance and Exercise Levels Among Successful Weight Loss Maintainers. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2019 Aug;27(8):1285-1291. doi: 10.1002/oby.22535. Epub 2019 Jul 3. PMID: 31267674.