Written by Minh Mai
Traditionally, the early morning hours are considered optimal for exercising. However, many people who are usually night owls may find it difficult to motivate themselves for the gym or a run in the morning. It’s true that working out first thing will kick-start your metabolism and help you to focus throughout the day, but if you’re pumping iron half asleep, then the morning isn’t necessarily the prime time for you and the benefits will be negligible.
Some physiologists claim that the best time to work out depends on your own individual “chronotype”, in other words your body clock. According to a recent study, your muscles are up to 30% stronger in the evening. The theory for this, is that your muscles are warmer as they’ve already been used in different ways throughout the day. During the study, all participants found their evening performances were improved by 1%-16% on their morning performances. One possible explanation is, in the morning, hormones boost the rate of muscle breakdown in the morning, whereas this process reverses itself in the evening. Later in the day, your levels of hormones are more likely to encourage the building of muscle cells.
The American Heart Association advises that the best time of day to work out is whichever time you’ll exercise most consistently, because the benefits of physical activity are closely linked to the amount you do on a consistent basis. In order to maintain consistency, it’s important to consider several factors and tailor them to your preferences. The factors you should consider are location, time of day, type of physical activity and social setting. If you work long hours, then it may work better for you to choose an activity that you can do regularly close to your workplace. Again, if you’re not a morning person, there is little point in getting up at 5am to workout, as you will not remain consistent. Most importantly, pick a form of exercise that you enjoy doing and determine whether you prefer to workout alone or in a group. Taking all of these factors into consideration when forming a workout routine should ensure you stick to it, rather than concentrating solely on the best time of day.
In essence, there is no universal “best” time of day to workout. There may be some legwork involved to determine which time is best for you, but the important thing is that your workout routine is tailored to you as an individual. When trying to figure out your optimum time of day, try exercising morning, afternoon and evening over a short period and see what feels best. Listen to your body and your workout routine is sure to be successful!