If you ask most experts about the best time to exercise, many of them would say, all exercise is good for you. Exercising at any time of the day is better than never exercising at all. However, recent research has shown that certain times of the day are better for working out than others. This article will explore the optimization of workout routines and hopefully, answer the question: “When is the best time to exercise?”

Exercise and timing – When is the best time to exercise?

Circadian Rhythm

Circadian rhythm or simply put, our body’s internal 24-hour clock monitors and controls physiological functions such as sleep, hormonal secretion as well as body temperature. The clock is controlled by hormones such as melatonin, also called a sleep hormone, this is at its peak level throughout the night and its lowest levels throughout the day. These hormones create a powerful physiological routine for the body and any slight change may disrupt it.

Advantages and disadvantages of morning workout

Research has shown that earlier workouts have the benefit of increased productivity throughout the day. A study conducted by researchers and Sports Medicine Doctors in Santa Barbara, California looked at 51 volunteers, who ran each morning for 30 minutes. They reported, after a certain period, improved sleep quality, mood and concentration throughout the day and decreased daytime sleepiness when compared to the control group that did not engage in any form of morning exercise.

The research investigated circadian cortisol and its effects. Circadian cortisol means that your cortisol levels fluctuate throughout the day, with the highest concentration recorded in the morning. Cortisol has been found to play an important role in developing and maintaining healthy habits and with the reported higher concentration in the mornings, it has been shown that exercising at this time, might help make your work out routine become a stronger habit. Another study has explored, and has shown that morning workouts can curb appetite throughout the day.

Morning workout routines do not come without disadvantages. Firstly, sacrificing sleep for a morning workout may result in sleep debt that is associated with an increase in catabolic hormones and decrease in anabolic hormones. These hormones are responsible for breaking down muscle and building up muscle respectively, these changes act negatively on muscle adaptation after workout.

Other scientists have said that it is beneficial to have your nervous system primed and ready before exercising, especially when you are doing complicated movements like agility drills and powerlifting. Furthermore, it has been proven that eating before exercising is crucial to avoid depleting energy stores during your workout. Breakfast may not be an option for all, especially if they are trying to squeeze a workout in before going to work. It has been suggested to allow enough time to eat a simple meal like hard-boiled eggs or oats before exercise. However, other research has shown that those that exercise on an empty stomach managed to lose more weight than those that exercised after breakfast.

Advantages and disadvantages of evening workout

One of the most significant benefits of working out in the evening is that most people have more time, which results in better focus and longer workouts. Exercising during evening can also help you to de-stress by boosting your endorphins. Additionally, if performing anaerobic output exercises, such as peak power and jump performances, it has been shown that evening workouts can yield better performance, thus better results. A study conducted by scientists at the University of Chicago have shown that those exercising in the evenings had better fitness results in their strength and muscle growth compared to those that exercised in the mornings. This is due to the higher level of testosterone in the evening hours.

New research has shown that the belief that high intensity exercise disturbs sleep is not true. Some scientists would even argue that a low intensity exercise in the evening can actually improve your sleep quality.

Evening workouts do have their drawbacks for people who struggle with their sleep. They should not exercise an hour before bed as it may disrupt sleep quality, due to an increase in arousal that may delay or disturb sleep. 

To summarise, there are advantages and disadvantages to both workout routines, however, morning exercise can be better for you if you are looking for fewer distractions, increased productivity throughout the day and habit formation as well as losing weight. On the contrary, evening workout could be ideal for you if you cannot squeeze breakfast in before your workout or. if you are looking to improve your performance and strength.

At ROC Private Clinic, we are passionate about integrative medicine, a personalised holistic approach that helps you to improve your overall health and wellness. If you would like to discuss your health, including your exercise routine and discover the best options for you, our experienced clinicians are here for you. 

To book a consultation with us, please contact us call 01224 515 254.

Written by Barbora Okasova – Physician Associate Trainee


Human circadian rhythms and exercise – PubMed (nih.gov)

Exercise timing and circadian rhythms – ScienceDirect

When Is The Best Time To Workout? – Forbes Health

Timing of Exercise Matters | Baseline of Health (jonbarron.org)

Exercise timing: Does it matter if you work out in the morning or night? – Science for Sport

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