What Is the Best Time of the Day to Exercise?

The best time of the day to exercise is in the late morning, heading into noon. By this time, your testosterone levels—important in muscle building—have peaked. You’re also on your way to the peak of your alertness at noon. On a personal note this is also my own preferred time to exercise.

I’m guilty of working out any time I have 10–20 minutes to spare. It’s not the most productive way to go about it. It may also be why I’ve never gotten many results.

So, I decided to pencil in a set time every day for my workout. To make sure I got the most out of it, I had to figure out one thing: what is the best time of the day to exercise and why?

Do I Need to Exercise Every Day?

A workout every day doesn’t hurt. It’s beneficial if you’re trying to lose weight or get fit. But you don’t need to exercise every day so long as you remain as active as you’d usually be.

Most people would say a minimum of three times a week is enough. I’m inclined to agree. An hour-long session of some high-activity exercise should be sufficient.

But when should this hour be?

Your Body Through the Day

Throughout the day, your body changes and adjusts. This is why you’re shorter in the evening, or why you wear out as the day goes on. Because of all these changes, you might wonder if there’s a time that’s best for exercise. 

Let’s break down how your body changes as the day goes on and make suggestions based on that.

Your Morning Body

In the morning, you’re at your tallest with your joints at their best, and you should be at your freshest. You’ve woken up from a rejuvenating sleep. You’re on your way to being energized and incredibly alert. 

Your testosterone—even in women—should be peaking now too. That’s a positive in terms of working out.

Testosterone is responsible for muscle growth. Excellent for getting you strong and fit. Because of your increased testosterone, your body can also handle stress better in the morning. Another pro for the workout.

Your Noon Body

Once you hit noon, you reach peak alertness. Excellent for a high-intensity, high-concentration workout. 

Your serotonin—controlling muscle contractions and alertness—peaks at midday. This is great because serotonin boosts your mood. A good mood might motivate your workout.

In the afternoon, you’re at your warmest, though, as your body’s temperature peaks. That’s probably not great for someone who doesn’t like being overheated and sweaty.

Your Night Body

Winding down from a long day, you’ve lost some height and some energy. The loss of height may have put your body under some stress already. Possibly a con in the workout aspect.

Your serotonin and testosterone levels are also at their lowest. Melatonin is starting to creep in to prepare your body for sleep. If you enjoy a drowsy, subdued workout, go for it by all means. Just be aware your body may not be poised for muscle growth and action at this time.

The lower hormone levels may also lead to a greater risk of injury. Less testosterone means less able to handle stress, so be careful. Don’t over-do it.

The Morning Workout

Person running

Your body seems to be at its best in the morning and early afternoon. So let’s take a look at the effects of some good morning exercise. Surely that’ll get your blood pumping to start the day.

Reasons to Do It

There are plenty of reasons to work out in the morning. Some are circumstantial, others backed by your body and science. However, there are pros and cons to each reason.

No Distractions

The first reason to work out in the morning is that it’s unavoidable—your day hasn’t started yet. No emergency meetings or family gatherings can stand in your way. An alarm set earlier than usual and you’re ready to get going. Nobody can distract you.

Pro
  • Nothing/nobody to stop you.
Con
  • Getting up early.

Consistent

Making your daily workout unavoidable is the key to consistency. Consistency is the key to getting used to the workout in the first place.

It usually takes two months to form a new habit, but may take more or less time. But let’s say two months of forcing yourself through the ritual, then it becomes second nature. Part of your morning routine.

Pro
  • It’s always planned, always scheduled, unchanging with time.
Con
  • A habit can get boring and may be hard to change if your circumstance does.

It’s Quieter

I mentioned before about how a morning workout is done before your day starts. That’s because most of the people in your life will still be in bed. 

Early mornings aren’t exactly peak times at the gym, park, track or in your home. Well, unless you have school-age kids, that is. This gives you the perfect opportunity for privacy and a productive workout.

Pro
  • Quiet times and privacy.
Con
  • May be lonely.

Your Body Is Primed

Lastly, we have the physical side of it. The testosterone and serotonin levels. Plus, physical activity can make your body even better.

Exercise gets your endorphins going. This improves your circulation, aids your brain function and makes you feel better in general. For the young or old.

Pro
  • Gets your body primed for the day.
Con
  • There isn’t one—I guess I lied a little earlier.

Good Morning Workout Ideas

The morning is a time where anything goes. Everything’s empty but probably open. There’s no limit to what you could do.

Here are a few things you can do to get energized in the morning:

  • A high-energy gym visit before you shower—utilize the empty machines.
  • Early morning jog.
  • Quick swimming session.
  • At-home workout—high kicks, jump rope, lunges, toe touches and other simple repetitive exercises.
  • Follow a workout video while making breakfast.

The Lunch–Afternoon Workout

Around midday, from lunch into the afternoon, you’re alert and awake. You’re in the middle of the day with enough done to warrant a break from productivity. Now you can move onto productivity of a different kind.

Reasons to Do It

You’re going to need more than “I want to work out” to warrant a midday workout. So, here are a few reasons working out in the middle of the day is a good idea:

Re-Energizes You

By now, you’re well into the workday, or a day of chores at home. These can both be draining.

A midday workout gets you re-energized. You’re forced to break your routine, concentrate on a high-energy activity and get the endorphins flowing. When you return to work or chores, you might be as energized as you were when you started.

Pro
  • Gets you back in the game after the midday slump.
Con
  • May get you too worked up and energized to focus on work.

Fills Your Lunch Hour

The lunch hour can be long and might feel like a waste of valuable time. Being stuck in the break room may not be for you. A trip home might be too far. Spending the time in a café reading or online is always fun, but not entirely productive.

So, getting a quick fitness class in can occupy your time and make it worthwhile. A 30-minute class gives you enough time to work out, clean up, eat and commute. 

Pro
  • Productive use of time.
Con
  • You may prefer a restful break.

Boosts Workout Productivity

The lunch hour is a strict time frame if you’re working. A quick gym session may be on the cards over the break. The strict time frame forces you to take fewer breaks in the workout.

Getting more done in less time could be great for someone prone to procrastination. The fast pace of your session may even help you build more muscle or burn more calories. The faster you go, the more energy you tend to use.

Pro
  • Benefits over time of a fast, productive workout session.
Con
  • Faster workout may be more intense and lead to more sweating—with little time to shower.

Aids Digestion

Exercise helps aid digestion. That’s all there is to it. A quick workout after you eat may speed up the digestion process and promote better gut health. That might help you out in the long run—better health is always fantastic.

Pro
  • Great for your body.
Con
  • May make you nauseous in the short run.

Peak Alertness

Since you’re most alert at noon, it’s a great time to work out. You can concentrate on complex moves and count your repetitions with ease.

It may also help you as your alertness falls from noon onwards. You start by riding the high of the alert. Then you sink into a familiar workout pattern as your alert-state fades. Letting you relax your busy mind and exercise your busy body.

Pro
  • Better concentration during your workout.
Con
  • This peak-alert time may be better used elsewhere.

Good Lunch–Afternoon Exercise Ideas

Since time is limited, going from lunch into the afternoon, you might want to utilize a quick class or workout. Something that will have you back before the lunch hour ends or home before the afternoon becomes evening.

Consider:

  • Thirty-minute classes—yoga, boxing or dance are excellent choices.
  • Jogging/running.
  • HIIT—high-intensity interval training, which can come in short sessions.
  • Simple exercises in the break room or at home—squats, lunges, jumping jacks, etc.

The Evening–Night Workout

Once evening hits, most of your day is over with, so you have some free time to relax. Why not forgo relaxation and use your free time to work out for an hour? If it’s your only time to do it, then it’s the best time to do it.

People working out at night

Reasons to Do It

At night you’re going to want some solid reasons to bother with a workout. After the long, productive day you’ve just had, you need a rest.

You can rest after your workout. You might feel better for it.

Helps You Unwind

Workouts aren’t all cardio, sprinting and sweating. Yoga is an excellent way to exercise I’ve been getting into recently. It may not seem like much of a workout, but the stretching gets your muscles working. Plus, the poses are much harder than they look.

There are more than physical benefits to yoga, though. It can be therapeutic and help you unwind after a long day.

Pro
  • Relaxing for mind and body.
Con
  • May not be your exercise of choice.

Gets You Hungry and Curbs Appetite

That sounds contradictory. Let me explain.

It’s easy to get hyper-focused on a task and forget all physical feelings. Afternoon work is one of those things. By the afternoon, it’s dinner time, but you have no appetite for it.

Sometimes starting a new activity can jolt your body into remembering it’s hungry. That’s what happened to me last night during some intense stretches. Then I was able to eat the dinner I had waiting—but not all of it.

I had an extra-large serving prepared to demolish, but since exercise curbs appetite, I only ate until I was full. This is a huge bonus if you tend to go all-in and gorge on dinner in the evening.

A workout can get you motivated to eat but keep you from eating too much. A perfect balance!

Pro
  • Stimulates yet regulates food intake and can prevent late-night snacking.
Con
  • It can be uncomfortable to exercise on an empty stomach.

Aids Digestion

Like a workout at lunch, a workout after dinner can aid digestion. This is a great way to make sure you’re not going to bed with a full, bloated stomach. 

That’s great if you overdid it at dinner, or possibly even if you didn’t. Eating too soon before bed can cause acid reflux when you lay down if the food isn’t digested.

Pro
  • Aids digestion ensuring comfort before bedtime.
Con
  • Discomfort exercising on a full stomach.

Extra Energy Boost

Being tired out after the workday isn’t uncommon. But there are still a few hours to fill before bed—kids, creativity, cooking dinner or focusing on enjoying a book or TV binge. You don’t want to fall asleep during that.

Even though you’re well-beyond peak alertness at this stage, exercise still gets the endorphins and blood flowing. That can give you enough of an energy boost to get you through the hazy period before the sweet relief of sleep.

Pro
  • Pumps you up with a final boost of energy for the day.
Con
  • Being too energized might make it harder to sleep later.

Tires You Out

If you push the workout a little later and do something more intense, it can do the opposite of keeping you awake. A draining workout before bed can be the last feather to tip you into tiredness.

This is great if you’re someone who gets wired, not tired after work. You need that extra push to take you to bed at night.

Pro
  • Tires you out before bed.
Con
  • If you go to sleep without a proper cool down, you might wake up stiff the next day.

Cools Your Muscles

After you work out, it’s a smart idea to cool down afterward. Usually, this will involve stretches that let the muscles cool down and relax after the session.

This cool down serves as a bonus cool down for the entire day. The walking, sitting, standing and so on you do throughout the day can take its toll. This cool down for your body and muscles can help lessen the stress on your body. Tomorrow you can wake up feeling refreshed and pain-free.

Pro
  • Helps head off any impending pain or stiffness from the day.
Con
  • Working out already strained muscles.

Good Evening–Night Exercise Ideas

The evening gives you a bonus of anything goes. You’re home for the day, no time restraints. Your family might also be home for the day, giving way for family exercising fun.

Here are some ways to exercise in the evening:

  • Yoga.
  • After work martial arts classes.
  • Gym session in the off-peak time before closing.
  • Home workout—pushups, squats, planing, lunges, etc.
  • Weight training.
  • Follow along with an exercise DVD.
  • Play a VR or dance video game—bonus points for fun and family activities.

The Best Time of the Day to Exercise

The best time of day, of course, will be up to you. Look at your body through the day. Look at your lifestyle. See what fits.

Woman doing pilates

In my opinion, the best time of the day to exercise is the late morning.

By late morning you’ve woken up and you’re ready to face the day. You’re on the way to the noon alertness spike. Your testosterone and serotonin are still high. So, it makes sense to sandwich a workout between the two peak times for your body—morning and noon.

This might be a difficult time of day to get exercising, so on a workday, I’d say go with the morning. It’s second-best. It melts into your morning routine and your body is primed and ready.

But on the weekends, anything goes. You can get exercising in the late morning, finished just in time for lunch.

Here are some fun activities you could do during this time that you probably won’t be able to fit in on a weekday:

  • Longer gym session.
  • Sports.
  • Long swimming session.
  • Water aerobics.
  • Horseback riding.
  • Hiking.

And I’m sure there’s more you’d enjoy. Any activity or specified workout during this, or any time of day, should suffice. Just make sure it’s productive, fits in and you’re enjoying it.

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