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July 24, 2018

Is there an optimal time of day to work out?

Fitness Workout

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People exercising in a park Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

There are countless ways to maximize your workouts, from eating the right foods before and after exercising to choosing the right time of day to get moving. While you may already have a routine in place — whether it’s a morning jog around your neighborhood or a trip to the local gym after work — there are, in fact, certain times of day that can be more productive than others when it comes to working out.

Athletes, doctors, and wellness professionals have long debated the topic of when to exercise, with some favoring one time of day over another.

The case for a.m. workouts

Many people prefer to get their blood pumping early in the morning and may even choose to exercise before carrying on with their workday. It can certainly be less complicated to work out in the morning: The gym is often less crowded, and it can also be easier to stick to a routine during the early hours of the day when friends, family, obligations, and other distractions are less likely to spill into your personal time.

Fitness centers are most crowded between 5 and 8 p.m., which means it might be even harder to find an open spot at your favorite Pilates class in the evening. Less traffic during the morning hours make an early trip to the gym an attractive option. Even though most early gym-goers pack the premises between 6 and 8 a.m., they typically vacate the machines much quicker than afternoon exercisers.

The case for p.m. workouts

Although it may be tempting to wake up and hit the machines, studies show that it may be better to wait. Exercise produces the best results when your body temperature is at its highest, and strength and flexibility tend to peak during the late afternoon and early evening hours. This phenomenon is typically attributed to the natural circadian rhythm that causes your body temperature to rise and fall to varying points throughout the day. In addition to your body’s ability to burn more calories during the afternoon, the increase flexibility and endurance may result in fewer exercise-related injuries.

Working out during the afternoon or evening has benefits that reach beyond biology alone: Weight gain is often tied to stress, and most of us are typically more stressed after a long work day than we are first thing in the morning. Using exercise to burn off excess tension after a particularly challenging day can prove to be both physically and mentally rewarding.

By participating in group exercise or fitness classes, you can take strides toward a healthier lifestyle. Gyms tend to offer more of these classes during the evening hours to accommodate those who work during the day. This makes working out in the evening optimal in terms of our bodies and our schedules.

What’s best for you?

Regardless of when you decide to work out, adhering to an exercise regimen that works with your schedule is key. Understanding the science behind fitness is undoubtedly important, but the best way to achieve your wellness goals is to listen to your body and find a solution that caters to your own personal needs, desires, and lifestyle.


Interested in trying a group fitness class? Try Interval Training: Every Tuesday at Independence LIVE