Recently discussed fitness issues are scarce: yoga versus pilates, cardio versus strength training, treadmill versus running outdoors: the list goes on. But no dispute is as polarizing as that of morning and evening training.
Of course, the best time to exercise is when gym time fits your schedule, so it really shows up regularly. If you can only squeeze a jog or yoga flow after work, it’s smarter to do it and then skip it altogether, physiologies and exercise trainers say.
That said, there’s an optimal time to train when you’ll reap most of the benefits, and that’s in A.M. Research shows that starting the day with a sweat session pumping the heart does bring undisputed health benefits; and honestly, it’s not as hard as you think, once you get used to it. Still not convinced? Let these five science-backed reasons to start setting your alarm a little before you do the trick.
1. You’ll make better wellness choices all-day
“When you start the day working on your health, you’ll strive to maintain that health,” explains Zack Daley, CPT, head coach of Tone House in New York City.
Think about it: when you’re proud of yourself for constantly killing him in your 8 a.m. class, you don’t want to ruin that healthy high by always eating doughnuts for breakfast, do you? Instead, you’re likely to try to keep that incredible feeling by jumping the cakes, climbing the stairs to get to your office and enjoying a bowl of grain at lunch instead of Tuesday’s special taco. All these little moves add up to be healthier.
2. You will sleep like a real baby, in a good way.
According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), people who hit the tape at 7 a.m. sleep more, experience deeper sleep cycles and spend 75 percent more time in the most sleep-repairing stages than those who exercise later in the day. The NSF also notes that those who sweat at night tend to have more trouble detecting the shuteye, possibly because of exercise increases body temperature, and an overheated body is a known sleep saboteur.
Anecdotally, Daley believes this is true: “I find that when I exercise early, I can go to bed more easily at night. But when I exercise later in the night, my adrenaline is still coming down from my night training.”
3. May lower blood pressure
People with high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, often need medications to control this dangerous condition. But lifestyle changes, such as exercising in the morning, can help.
In a 2014 study published in the Journal of Vascular Health and Risk Management, researchers had participants exercise at three different times of the day: 7 a.m., 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Those who trained early in the morning at 7 a.m. reduced their blood pressure after training by 10 percent. That dive continued all day and went down even further at night, compared to the other participants, the researchers concluded. (Study subjects who trained at 7 a.m. also slept better and had longer sleep cycles compared to their subsequent training counterparts.)
4. You will improve your mood to help cope with the workday.
“Exercise gives you that endorphin boost, which is basically natural painkillers for the body,” says Katherine “KG” Gundling, CPT, trainer at ICE NYC. If your brain takes that endorphin bath early in the morning, you’ll start your day feeling more optimistic and less susceptible to stress and anxiety, preparing you for a positive and productive workday. “You’ll also have a sense of accomplishment knowing you’ve made time for yourself first and made your mental health a priority,” Gundling says.
5. You could lose more weight if that’s what you’re aiming for.
Yes, if you’re working to lose weight, your results may depend (at least a little) on time. According to a 2019 study in the International Journal of Obesity, those who exercised earlier in the day (at least before noon) lost “significantly more weight” than those who exercised later in the day, after 3 p.m.
While the researchers admit that the study was small and needs more data to support these claims, they also found some other differences in which they perform morning versus late exercises: according to the researchers, the first to exercise was a little more active throughout the day and eventually ended up taking more steps than those who exercised late. Those who exercised early also ate about 100 fewer calories, although researchers said these differences are barely applicable.
6. You’ll have the rest of the afternoon and night off
In a perfect world, you would expect your usual date with the elliptical machine with pure and unbridled enthusiasm. But sometimes going to the gym is the last thing you want to do; it feels like a chore or a little bit of time, or the weather is terrible and you just want to go home and watch a marathon of housewives. However, arrive early in the day, and you will get your sweat session out of the way, so you won’t bother later.
“Especially if you have a busy schedule, exercising in the morning can be the best way to plan and make sure your workout doesn’t go aside at the end of a long day,” Gundling says. “If you’ve worked in the morning, you don’t have to choose between exercise and happy hour or exercise and dinner with friends, so it’s easier to turn it into a habit.”
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