I’ve always been a morning person. Until my daughter Chloe was born, my favorite time to exercise was 5 a.m., before anyone or anything could clutter my mind or steal my precious workout time. For me, starting my day with a workout boosts my energy, clears the mental cobwebs, and sets a Warrior mentality for the rest of the day. But I understand that not everybody is like me. I also understand that to be most effective in life we need to be flexible as situations change. When family and career obligations pop up, we must often adapt our approach to exercise if we wish to be successful.
You may prefer hitting the gym or going for a run after work. People ask me all the time if it’s better to work out in the morning or at night, so I decided to dig in to see what the differences really are, at least from a scientific standpoint.
Surprise! The research is a mixed bag. Some studies show morning workouts may be better for weight loss, while other research indicates you might be stronger and perform better during the evening. With the science showing advantages to both, I think it’s entirely up to you if you prefer to sweat it out in the morning or at night.
The important thing is that you actually do it!
So often I coach people who get caught up in the details of not being able to execute a perfect diet or exercise plan that they ditch the entire thing. Let’s be honest, that is simply an excuse to fail.
Regardless of what time you exercise, or even for how long, I’d prefer you focus on consistency. Studies have shown that people who are consistent with exercise—meaning that they do something every day, even if it is a quick burst on the treadmill for 10 minutes—are the healthiest. Unless you’re a fitness model, the focus should be on your overall health, not on the minute differences you will see based on what time of day you exercise.
However, for those of you who aspire to be fitness models, or just need to know what time of day will yield the best results, let’s take a look at what the science shows:
Benefits for Morning Workout Warriors
Check it off your list. I love the feeling of satisfaction that comes with getting things done. Completing your workout in the morning can make you feel like you’ve accomplished something big and give you a boost of confidence for the rest of the day.
Habit-forming. Most of the Warriors I talk to say it’s easier to make a commitment to morning workouts because there are fewer potential distractions—bad traffic, last-minute projects that make you stay late at work, dinner plans, or just feeling fatigued after a long day.
Healthier eating habits. When you start the day with a brain-boosting workout, you’re more likely to follow it up with a good-for-you breakfast (like the brain-healthy breakfast recipes on my website). And eating a good breakfast balances your blood sugar and fires up your brainpower so you can make better food decisions throughout the day. People who exercise and have a healthy breakfast make better overall decisions all day!
Benefits for Evening Workout Warriors
Work off workday stress. Increased stress levels have been linked to everything from weight gain to heightened anxiety to a greater risk of heart disease. Hitting the trail for a hike, taking a kickboxing class, or going hard in a strength training session can help you shake off daily stresses to keep your cortisol levels in check.
Wind down time. Taking a gentle yoga or stretching class in the evening can help you shift into relaxation mode to encourage better sleep. It’s also a great way to avoid too much screen time in the evenings, which has been associated with an increase in sleep disruption.
Give happy hour the heave-ho. Heading straight from work to a workout class gives you an excuse to skip happy hour where even the most committed Brain Warrior might be tempted to overindulge in alcohol and unhealthy fried, fatty foods.
If you prefer evening workouts be sure to avoid high-intensity cardio activities for several hours before bed time. This can have the opposite effect of a gentle yoga class. High-intensity cardio tends to increase energy, which can have you counting sheep to settle your brain long into the night.
For more exercise tips, check out these free fitness videos on my website.