When Is the Best Time to Work Out?

A common saying in fitness is that the best time to work out is when you can find the time to do it, so how do you figure out the best time for weight training or cardiovascular exercise? A lot of factors, including how intensely your exercise session will be, can help you figure out when the best time to work out is for you. Here are some more tips to help you decide.

Go Early for Consistency

One benefit to early morning workouts is that you get the task out of the way. Many people get bogged down by other responsibilities later in the day and end up missing a session. According to WebMD, early morning exercisers tend to be more consistent with their training habits overall, which means they will likely see better results in the long run.

Consider Your Crowd Preference

Another benefit to working out before going to work is that fewer people are at the gym and on the roads, so you get more quiet time to exercise. The peak time at most gyms is between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., explains Jay Cardiello of Shape magazine, so if crowds put you off, then it may be best to push your exercise sessions to earlier in the day. On the other hand, if you enjoy group classes, working out with friends, or a busy gym atmosphere, then plan to work out later in the day.

Obtain More Power Output

A small study found that cyclists who rode at 6 p.m. rather than 6 a.m. had higher power outputs when exercising. These findings relate to exercise complexity: The more complex the exercise, the better the cyclists performed later in the day. So working out in the evening may be your best bet if you're going beyond coasting and want to burn some serious calories.

Sleep More Soundly

Most research about the best time to work out is about how it affects your sleep. For instance, a 2014 study in Vascular Health and Risk Management found that aerobic activity at 7 a.m. had a more positive effect on the quality of sleep—leading to a more restorative deep sleep—and a greater improvement on blood pressure regulation than cardio exercise at 1 p.m. or 7 p.m. In a different study, resistance exercise, or strength training, with weights at 7 p.m. resulted in a less interrupted sleep pattern.

Work up an Appetite

If you don't wake up with an appetite, then a morning exercise routine may help you start the day off right and work up a healthy appetite. Just be sure to refuel with lean protein and healthy carbs. On the other hand, waiting until later in the day to work out may be better for high-intensity training (HIIT), lifting, or plyometric workouts so you have food in your system that can supply the energy necessary for intense exercise.

The best way to determine your ideal time to work out is to experiment for a month to see how you perform before and after eating, and while doing different types of exercises throughout the day. Pay attention to how you feel not only during your exercise session, but also the next day. When you find the perfect time to work out, you'll be able to fine-tune your schedule, get on track, and see results.