When is the best time to exercise? Morning, noon, night? Here, leading fitness instructors clue us in.
Your dad wakes up at the crack of dawn to start his day with yoga. Your best friend books a pre-work cycling sesh to get her juices flowing. Your mom prefers afternoon strolls. Your sister lives for late-night gym seshes.
Simply put, everyone has different preferences when it comes to working out. But have you ever wondered when the best time to exercise actually is?
We know we have. That’s why we chatted with a few fitness experts to find out once and for all if there really is an optimal time to day to get in your workout.
When is the best time to exercise?
Good news: There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to working out—and that goes just as much for timing as it does the exercise type.
“Everyone operates differently,” begins STEEZY Studio dance workout instructor Luis Cervantes. “For some people, working out first thing in the morning might be the best way to kickstart their energy, mental state, and overall day. For others, working out in the evening might be the best way to release any tension or frustration from their day, and might even help them sleep better at night.”
The point is, there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to the best time to exercise. “The important thing is to get up and get moving at some point in the day,” Luis continues.
After all, as he points out, movement is essential for both physical and mental well-being.
Plus, “Studies show that there are various physiological advantages for working out both in the morning and at night,” adds Katelyn DiGiorgio, Pure Barre’s VP of Training and Technique. “So above all, the most effective time to work out is the when you can practically fit it in your schedule consistently.”
How to Find the Best Exercise Routine for You
Now, since the best time to exercise is subjective, the smartest approach is to figure out the routine that’s most effective for y-o-u.
Yoga instructor and holistic wellness specialist Dani Schenone, RYT, recommends asking yourself the following questions:
- Does effective mean getting the movement in, regardless of when or how?
- Does it mean doing a workout that brings you the energy you need to go about your day?
- Is your objective to lower stress levels, sleep better, or something else entirely?
Whatever the case may be, knowing what works best for you will help you get the most out of your workouts. With that in mind, Dani suggests following the steps below to uncover your most ideal exercise routine—timing and all.
1. Identify your goal
Before trying to plan any workouts, first identify what your goal is.
That way, you can gauge how often you’ll need to workout, which can also help you determine the best time to do so.
2. Choose the type of workout
Once you have your goal in mind—whether it’s to get stronger, sleep better, stress less, or manage your weight—it’s time to pick a workout.
“Are you cycling? Practicing yoga? Lifting?” Dani asks. “These are very different types of movement, and you may find you like one type of movement in the morning and another type in the afternoon.”
When sampling workouts, she recommends focusing on one type at a time.
3. Experiment with different times
Let’s say you want to get into cycling, but you’re not sure if it’s for you. Dani suggests exercising at different times throughout the day to really give it a chance.
“Jot down your feelings pre- and post-movement,” she says. “What was the experience like? Did you feel closer to your goal? How [are] your energy levels? Stress levels? What is your body telling you before, during and after the workout? Write it all down.”
After a week of testing a workout, decide if it’s right for you or if it’s time to try something new.
4. Create a routine
Once you’ve reviewed your notes and found your ideal workout and optimal time of day, it’s time to create a routine that accommodates your time preference.
Dani encourages everyone to commit to their chosen workout regimens. “Commit to coming back to that routine [even if] you fall off for a day or three—because you’re human, and that’s inevitable,” she shares.
Then, once you’ve gotten into your routine and given it a few weeks to really reap its benefits, it’s time to check in with yourself. “Does this routine serve you?” she asks. “Yes? Great! No? Go back to step one.”
No matter when you work out—so long as you do, in fact, get moving—you’ll see the benefits in doing so.
That said, it’s key to find out when you feel most energized to put your all into exercise. “If you’re someone who’s more energized in the morning rather than after a long day of work (or vice versa), then you might see a difference in your workouts,” Luis shares. “Otherwise, the important thing is that we’re getting that workout at some point in our day.”
Last but not least, don’t overthink it. As Dani points out, we should all congratulate ourselves on moving our bodies.
“It’s hard enough to carve time into our lives to exercise,” she says. “Being so prescriptive and rigid could potentially keep you from doing the very thing you want to do, which is move!”
Ultimately, the key takeaway is that the best time to exercise is whenever it works for you. From there, don’t be afraid to switch things up as needed or as you see fit.