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You know what they say: “It’s not having time. It’s making time.” At the risk of sounding like your mom, it’s true—especially when applied to exercise. You have to make the time to exercise if exercise is what’s important to you. But when is the best time to work out?
My workout schedule? I work a full-time 8-5 and spend a lot of time nurturing my social life after hours. There’s not really time to exercise after work and then look presentable to see friends, so I wake up at 5 a.m. every weekday morning to get a workout in before heading to the office. I could sleep during this time, but exercise is more important to me, so I make the time by sacrificing two hours of sleep. This exercise schedule works for me, but that doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. In order to improve your chances of sticking to a regular exercise regimen, you need to learn what schedule is most conducive to your life.
Each exercise time offers different benefits for your body and your schedule. It’s important to keep these health benefits in mind when deciding the best time to work out for you, but the most important thing is choosing the time that you’re most likely to follow relentlessly.
Mornings Are the Best Time to Work Out Argument
I know the idea of waking up early isn’t exactly enticing. Regardless of its initial appeal, mornings might be the best time to work out if your days are hectic and unpredictable. A morning workout gets your day started on a healthy note, and means you don’t have to stress about rearranging your schedule to fit in a workout later in the day. And even though you’ll be a sleepy bear when you wake up early, you’ll still be more likely to hit the gym than you’ll be when you’re exhausted from a long day at work.
The physical benefits of exercising in the morning are pretty fantastic. Crushing a workout first thing leads to higher calorie burn throughout the day, typically promotes better quality and longer duration of sleep (because you’ll be super wiped come 9 p.m.), and lowers blood pressure—all in addition to helping you build one healthy, hot body.
There’s also a mental benefit to exercising in the morning before you’ve started tackling your to-do list. It’s a relief to know that you’re done with the gym for the day and don’t have to worry about anything derailing your fitness progress. You’ll be relaxed enough to take whatever curveballs come your way in stride. Your brother wants to meet you for dinner on a whim? No problem, because you already got your workout done!
Evenings Are the Best Time to Work Our Argument
Despite the benefits, morning workouts aren’t always possible for some people. Not everyone is able to wake up early, and that’s okay. It all depends on what works best for your schedule. Evenings are the best time to work out for those who struggle to wake up before the sun, have children to send off to school, or need a major stress reliever after work.
The benefits of exercising later in the day include better muscular function, more energy to perform a good workout, and more options for workouts. As you go through the day, your body wakes up. Your muscles loosen as you move around, your body temperature increases, and your entire body is more equipped to take on a workout. When you exercise in the morning it can feel like trying to sprint right out of the gate on a cold winter’s day. Waiting until your body is fully awake and ready means you’re less likely to be injured or do a half-assed exercise.
Evening workouts are also beneficial for providing you with a way to de-stress after a long day. I know that there are days when I simply need to go on a run because I had a hellish day at work. The run always makes me feel better than laying on my couch does. Consistently working out in the evenings means you have a daily stressbuster after work.
Accountability and variety are important factors for you to consider when figuring out an exercise schedule. The big bonus of later workouts is more class options and a better chance of finding a workout partner. There are few group exercise classes offered in the wee hours of the morning, and people willing to meet you that early are practically impossible to find. Gyms offer a plethora of classes in the later hours of the day, though. Therefore your chances of finding a buddy to join you exponentially increases.
Before you choose your best time to work out, think about which benefits appeal more to you and whether or not your schedule makes that time possible. Even though I love the idea of de-stressing at the gym after work when my body is fully awake, it’s not practical for me to stick to evening workouts. You might really want to tackle a workout first thing in the morning to have it out of the way, but taking your children to school takes precedence. It’s a give and take, really.
If you’re still not sure, try both for a week and then evaluate which one brought the most peace, happiness, and health into your life. Whichever exercise time does that is the one you need to adhere to.