What’s the Best Time to Work Out?

Maybe you’re an early riser who can’t imagine starting your day without a workout. Or maybe you’re the type of person whose ideal way to unwind after a long haul at the office is to sweat out the stress. It’s a no-brainer that exercise any time of the day is more beneficial than no exercise at all, but is there actually a better time to burn calories and build strength?

Depends, really.

Appalachian State University found in a 2011 study that people who work out in the morning get more, and more restful, sleep than those who train in the evening. It’s also easier to stick to your routine, especially if you work unpredictable or long hours, because it limits the number of unexpected variables. Fatigue, mood, and work or social obligations–these are all things that can pop up throughout the day and interrupt your path to the gym.

Early morning routines can also provide the motivation to make positive mealtime decisions–not to mention the revved metabolism to utilize those calories efficiently. Some people might try to work off a cheeseburger-and-fries lunch by doing pilates or lifting weights in the evening. The exercise early bird might find it’s just easier to say no to the Happy Meal altogether.

PM workouts also have their advantages. Classes and gyms are typically less crowded during pre-work hours, and for people with larg personal bubbles, that’s a definite bonus. However, if you’re the type that gets a boost from a more social and competitive setting, the you might find the scene after 6 PM more exciting. And if you’re excited about going to workout, the chances are greater that you actually will.

There’s also a greater chance you’ll be able to find a buddy willing to meet you, if you enjoy working out with a partner or downward-dogging it next to a friend. Magazines like Women’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Men’s Health, and Body+Soul have all touted the benefits of a buddy workout. You’re less likely to skip a day if you’ve committed to another person, you’ll each get an extra boost of motivation from one another, and it can just be plain fun.  It’s also an excellent way to try new things, whether it’s lifting heavier weights safely or checking out a kickboxing class.

But what this all really boils down to is that the best time of day to work out is the time that you’re most likely to go. If you’re not a morning person and you know that you’re going to pick the snooze button over exercise most days of the week, you don’t need to stack the deck against yourself; give the evening a shot. Likewise, if you find that distractions and obligations are constantly keeping you from hitting the gym at night, make yourself get up and go early on. You’ll feel good and reap the physical and mental benefits no matter when you’re exercising.

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