Early or Late: What's the Best Time to Exercise?
Finding time during your day to exercise might be a challenge in itself. Therefore, you want to make sure that you are getting the maximum benefits possible with whatever activity you are doing. Studies and research have been conducted, but will their results actually help you determine which time of the day is the best for you to exercise?
Early Day Exercise
Benefits: Exercising in the morning has many advantages. First, it is taken care of before your day really starts, which will eliminate any last minute schedule conflicts that could prevent you from exercising. Also, morning workouts, walks, or jogs should result in more energy and focus throughout the day. Exercise at the beginning of the day has been shown to help people maintain a level of consistency for their fitness goals.
Tips for an Early Day Workout: If you intend to exercise in the morning, be sure to eat something first, like a banana or piece of toast. The nutrients from the night before need to be replenished and your blood sugar will be lower. If possible, allow 30 minutes for digestion before you workout. If your mornings are flexible and you eat a large breakfast, give yourself at least two hours before exercising. Regular sleeping habits are important as well. Seven or eight hours of quality rest will provide optimal energy for a morning routine.
Late Day Exercise
Benefits: Some people are just not morning people! They have higher energy levels in the afternoon, and it is very common for strength levels to increase later in the day as well. Having a set schedule is the key and you should aim for exercising at the same time each day.
Tips for a Late Day Workout: Lunch time can be a great workout opportunity, especially if your coworkers join you. Just make it a point to eat your lunch after you work out. For others, exercising after work gives them a chance to work off the stress from the day and feel more energized for that night. Again, this depends on your schedule and when you can focus on the activity without being distracted.
Finding Time for Your Best Exercise
- Listen To Your Body: Everyone has their own body clock that circulates on a unique rotating time frame. Your clock will naturally let you know what time is the best for your exercise. Try different times to see the effect they have on your work out and your day. Then, select the times that fit into your schedule and compliment your physical activity the most. Safety is always a top priority, so avoid squeezing in a late night, outdoor jog when you might be too tired to concentrate and more prone to injuries and accidents.
- Eat Smart: Whether you choose to exercise in the morning, early afternoon, or late afternoon, watch what you eat before, during, and afterward to allow for proper digestion. Small meals need two or three hours to digest, and larger meals can take three or four hours. (Read more on this subject: "Post-Workout: 7 Healthy Meals to Maximize Your Efforts")
- Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration, and eat after you are finished exercising to refuel your body.
- Keep Things Interesting: Once you establish a pattern, it will be easier to include exercise in your daily routine. After a while, you might want to add some variety by changing the time and/or activity in a flexible way.