fitness

When is the best time to exercise? 5 personal trainers give their definitive verdicts.

When is the best time to exercise?

It’s a question we’ve been asking ourselves for decades, trying to pin point the best time in the day to work out.

Mostly, because if you’re going to put the effort in to go to the gym or exercise, you want to know you’re going to get maximum results and bang for your buck.

Some think exercise in the morning is best. Others say exercise in the afternoon is better.

Then, there’s the people who swear by training in the middle of the night when no one else is at the gym, and the ones who go running… on their lunch break.

So, is there a ‘best time’ to exercise, and if so, when is it? Here’s what researchers and fitness professionals think.

Side note – short on time? Try these quick core exercises from PT Sam Wood next time you’re watching telly. Post continues after video.

Video by MMC

When is the best time to exercise? In the morning, afternoon or evening?

It’s hard to get a straight answer from the fitness industry as to whether there is a magical ‘best time to work out’.

Part of that is because… what does ‘best’ mean?

All of us have different motivations for exercising (or… not exercising). Weight loss, aerobic fitness, building muscle, stress relief, as a part of a mental health plan, better sleep – is there one time of day that exercising at could tick all of these boxes?

Not really.

For example, Swiss researchers found vigorous exercise performed one-and-a-half hours before bedtime was linked with falling asleep faster, fewer wakings in the night and better moods, The Conversation reported.

Fasted cardio (exercising first thing in the morning before eating breakfast) is said to burn more fat because our bodies will use fat as its primary fuel source, rather than your breaky. But then, this research look at the difference between exercising in a fasted state, compared with after food, for four weeks and there was no difference in the amount of fat lost between fasted and fed exercise.

Then there’s the theory exercising in the morning will get you better results because you’re less likely to drop out of a class like you might after a particularly excruciating day at work – there’s not really any evidence to support this though.

ADVERTISEMENT

Overall, one thing is pretty clear: picking a time + sticking to it = results.

Personal trainers on the best time to work out.

We asked five fitness professionals who specialise in everything from functional movement and HIIT (high intensity interval training) to yoga, pilates and everything in between to find out their verdicts on whether exercising in the morning is better than exercising in the afternoon, or vice versa.

Here’s what they had to say.

Adala Bolto, personal trainer and CEO/co-founder of ZADI Training.

A post shared by ZADI (@zadi.training) on

Bolto’s verdict: Whenever works for you.

“It’s difficult enough to include regular daily exercise to our already busy lifestyles. The good news? The best time to exercise can be tailored to you!” Bolto told Mamamia.

“Research suggests your body will adapt to your regular training routine and not the other way around. For example, if you prefer to do HIIT and strength training in the mornings, afternoon or evening, your body will start to perform better at that time, and you will be getting the most out of each workout.

“Before you force yourself into an early morning gym session because you have been told it is the best time to train or your friend has insisted, opt out if you’re simply not at your best in the morning. Perhaps it will give you some comfort knowing that your lunch time or evening session will be just as effective.

ADVERTISEMENT

“We’re not are not all the same and the same applies to our bodies and how we respond to different activities at different times of the day. Choose what time works for you and stick with it.”

Bridie Walker, personal trainer and founder of She Moves.

Walker’s verdict: Morning… or whenever works for you.

Walker told Mamamia, “the best time to exercise? Anytime that works for you.”

That said, in her experience training clients, those who exercise in the morning find it an easier routine to stick to.

“Fasted cardio first thing in the morning before breakfast is said to have slight fat loss benefits, but more importantly, it is an easier time to stay consistent. I have always found clients who exercise in the mornings stick to a routine for much longer as there are less things that can get in the way before work vs after work.”

“Clients who get into a groove with this also say that exercise just fits in and they don’t feel it interrupts with their lives, it doesn’t feel like as much as a chore and takes up far less brain space having to think about it or have the ‘will I? won’t I?’ conversation in your head all day. I think the morning exercise camp get that burst of endorphins and energy first thing that sets you up for the day feeling good and knowing you have done something good for yourself.”

Steve Grant, director and senior coach at Rushcutters Health.

ADVERTISEMENT

Grant’s verdict: Depends what you’re doing.

Grant told us the best of time to exercise depends on what goal you’re trying to achieve.

“If you goal is fat-loss, the best time of the day to exercise is first thing in the morning after a period of fasting while asleep overnight. The body will then break down fatty deposits into the blood stream to use for energy,” he told Mamamia.

“If your goal is muscle gain, I recommend training between 4pm and 6pm when your circadian rhythm has your nervous system and hormone production in an optimum state. Training at this time of the day, after lunch, allows for the greatest cardiovascular efficiency and blood pressure to optimise your session.

“If you’re training for a fitness event, I recommend training at the same time of the day as you will be required to perform. So, if your fun run is in the morning, train in the mornings, or if your touch football games are at night, train at night. Both examples help the body get accustomed to performing in those conditions.”

Henrietta Moody, personal trainer and EHP Holdings fitness expert.

A post shared by Henny Moody (@henny_moody) on

ADVERTISEMENT

Moody’s verdict: Whenever works for you.

Moody told Mamamia, “The best time to exercise is when it works for you! Too many people get caught up in timing of meals and exercise.”

“Timing isn’t the important factor. Focus your energy on the effort during the workout, and how you fuel your body across the day as a whole instead. There is no point resenting the time you train, make it fit your schedule and when you feel the most energised.

“Generally, your body clock will be swayed to a certain preference. Trying to force yourself to go against that isn’t going to do you any favors when it comes to consistency in training. Start being more intuitive with how your body performs at certain times of the day. If you wake up feeling peppy, then definitely go smash out a workout But, if it takes you longer to ease into the day, then get it done after work (or in your lunch break).

“Just don’t use a hard day at work as an excuse to skip an evening session, be planned with your training program and book your sessions like appointments, no excuses allowed.”

Kirsten Scott, yoga teacher and functional movement trainer.

ADVERTISEMENT

Scott’s verdict: Whenever works for you.

“It’s a debate that never seems to get settled: Is it better to exercise in the morning or at night? And does it even matter?” Scott said.

She told Mamamia, in her opinion, it really doesn’t, so long as you’re doing it.

“The best time of day to exercise is when you will actually do it. Sticking to a workout plan isn’t easy when you have demands like work and family, which can vary week to week.”

“There are advantages to both morning and evening exercise depending on the individual. What I do know is, you are more likely to exercise regularly if you select a time that works for you and stick to it, regardless of whether it’s morning or evening. Exercising consistently at the same time each day is one of the best ways to develop a long lasting exercise habit.”

So… when is the best time to exercise?

  • The ‘best’ time to exercise is a time you can consistently stick to over time.
  • You can look at your fitness goals to determine what time you might like to work out (i.e. in the morning before breaky for fat loss).
  • Choose a time that will fit into your routine and be realistic about what you can do – if you’re always grumpy in the morning, don’t exercise in the morning, and if you collapse after work, don’t go after work.

In short: exercising at the crack of dawn is great, exercising on your lunch break is great,exercising after work is great and exercising in the middle of the night is great.

As long as you’re exercising, you’re good.

Want to have your voice heard? Plus have the chance to win $100? Take our survey now.

MMSurvey
00:00 / ???