We all know the benefits of exercise. Just a little can go long way. Exercise helps us boost muscle tone and strength. Our memory and cognition improve, and the likelihood of depression diminishes. Regular exercise can also help to maintain a more optimal weight and shed a little body fat. But what's the best time of day to exercise? Is exercising at 6am better than 6pm or does it make a difference? 

The Best Time of Day to Workout

Believe it or not, the time of day you choose to exercise makes a difference to your body. There are variations in hormones, like testosterone, insulin, and cortisol that make working out at one time of the day better than another. Here's a quick physiological and practical breakdown:

The Benefits of AM Workouts:

  • When you roll out of bed first thing in the morning, your body's core temperature is lower, which can make exercising at this time of day a little less desirable.
  • Cortisol levels are at their peak in the early morning hours. Taking advantage of this elevated hormone in the AM vs at night means that you'll likely get better sleep.
  • You're more likely to get it done. I don't know about you, but it's too easy for me to get wrapped up in work, taking care of my kids, or just vegging out and losing the drive to workout for the day if I put it off too long. After an early morning workout is over for the day, you're done!
  • Testosterone is also at its peak in the morning hours. This means, for men and women, that you'll have an extra edge when it comes to muscle development.
  • Blood sugar levels stay in check longer when you workout in the morning hours. This is especially important for diabetics who are looking for a better time of day to get their sweat on.

You've got five really great reasons to workout in the morning, but what are the upsides of exercising later in the day? Here are a few great reasons to move your body in the afternoon or evening hours if you didn't do it earlier in the day.

The Benefits of PM Workouts:

  • You're warmed up and ready to go. Not only is your core body temperature higher, but your muscles are warm, too. This means you'll feel more comfortable, without as much joint creakiness, starting your workout later in the day.
  • When you workout later in the day, your performance peaks. Your brain and body are both tuned in, meaning you're better able to balance your body (great for yoga lovers), and push your body harder (great for endurance and strength athletes).
  • You can release pent up stress. After a hard day of doing your thing, stress can pile up really fast. Taking a break from your work routine to focus on exercise, whether it's a 30-minute walk or gentle yoga class, or an 8-mile run or HIIT workout can make you feel like a new person ready to conquer the rest of your day.

The Benefits of Working Out ANY TIME of Day:

Unless you're interrupting 8 hours of sleep, or working out of a full stomach, or extremely stressed, there really is no awful time of day to exercise.

[important sidebar: (1) your body needs the sleep, (2) working out with a tummy full of food is a nightmare, and (3) if you're really stressed, pump the breaks on vigorous exercise and do something nice for your body like taking a bath or taking 15 minutes to stretch].

If you're like me, you might prefer to workout early in the morning, but if an afternoon or evening workout happens, it happens. Or maybe you love a later-in-the-day sweat fest, and couldn't imagine dragging yourself out of bed before the sun rises. There is no need to get married to one time of day over another when it comes to exercise.

The most important thing you can do is move your body, no matter what time.

A few other added benefits of exercise, in general, include:

  • When you exercise, you boost your human growth hormone, or HGH, which helps you develop muscle, improve metabolism, regulate blood sugar levels, and burn fat.
  • Just 20 minutes of exercise a day (including brisk walks) reduce the markers in your body that trigger inflammation. Since inflammation is tied to most chronic diseases, like diabetes and arthritis, this is a great reason to embrace movement.
  • Last but not least, a little bit of exercise helps to improve skin tone through increased blood flood. When your heart starts pumping faster and harder, all that oxygen-rich blood (carrying nutrients, too), makes its way to the surface of your skin, improving tone and sweeping away toxins.