There isn’t a “right” time to work out. Some people like to hit the weights or treadmill first thing in the morning to get their blood flowing and get it out of the way. Others can’t stomach the idea of working out before dawn. Instead, they wait until after work to make their trek to the gym. Neither approach is really right or wrong and sometimes scheduling determines when a person is able to exercise. But if you have the freedom to choose your workout time, some experts say afternoon is best.
The Benefits of Working out in the Afternoon
Working out in the morning gives you energy, and you don’t run the risk of finding an excuse not to do it later on. But exercising in the afternoon has benefits too. When you wake up in the morning, your body temperature is lowest, and your muscles are stiffest. Working out with stiff muscles increases the risk of injury, and if you’re not a “morning person,” you may not feel as motivated to eke out that last rep when you work out early in the day.
As the day goes on body temperature rises. Core body temperature usually peaks in the late afternoon between 3:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M. This is when your muscles are most pliant and supple, and it feels easiest to lift weights. Your risk of injury is also lowest when your body temperature is higher and your muscles are “warmed up.”
Fuel and energy levels are greater in the afternoon than they are in the morning. If you do high-intensity exercise, you need adequate glycogen stores to avoid “hitting the wall.” Working out in the afternoon may also feel less unpleasant since pain perception is at its lowest in the later afternoon hours. This reduces the perceived effort of working out. If you wait until the evening, your motivation to work hard may not be as high and you’re more likely to be limited by late-day fatigue.
Find the Workout Time That’s Right for You
Afternoon workouts may feel easier than ones earlier in the morning or later in the day, but the best time to work out is when you can fit it in. If time isn’t an issue, keep a workout diary for a few weeks, and take note of how you feel after each session and how much you accomplished. If your motivation level is higher at a certain time of the day, and it’s easier to push yourself, that’s the best time for you.
Some people also split their workout up, and do 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes later in the day. Research shows that a split workout with rest between sessions burns more calories and fat than a single workout. It’s also a good idea to change your exercise time occasionally to keep your body from adapting.
The Bottom Line?
Whether you work out in the morning, afternoon or after dinner, you’re still doing something good for your body. Find out what works best for you.
CNN Health. “Experts Disagree on Ideal Time of Day to Exercise”
Ergonomics. 1989. Vol. 32 (1)