Is there a best time of day to work out? I get this question a lot — and an article in The New York Times earlier this month validated my opinion: Exercise at any time of day beats no exercise at all.
Studies show that 4 to 7 p.m. is slightly better than morning, the article reports, because “the body’s temperature and hormone levels peak in late afternoon, making muscles more flexible and producing the best ratio of testosterone (the muscle-building hormone) to cortisol (the hormone that does the reverse).” But these advantages are slight, and the human body can adapt to working out at any time of the day.
I must once again stand on my soapbox and say — a calorie burned at 6 a.m. is the same calorie burned at 6 p.m.! So don’t let research or news reports sabotage your efforts. Too often we force ourselves to follow the rules for diet and exercise, even if they don’t work in our lives. If that’s the case, we may be better off making our own rules. I remind my clients all the time that even if you are a rule follower by nature, when it comes to exercise you may have to break some of the “scientific” rules and just get it done!
There are plenty of rules for exercise that we follow because they make sense. We have heart rate training zones to guide us so we burn fat and don’t overdo it. We have strength training rules that tell us how much and how often to lift and how to do the moves safely. We have guidelines for stretching to reduce injury and muscle soreness. And when I’m training an athlete or someone who is working toward a serious goal like a marathon, rules and schedules are important to their outcome.
But if you’re just trying to just lose a few pounds, feel better, have more energy or stop being cranky … BEND THE RULES to work for you, not against you — especially if you’re currently doing nothing (or very little) because you can’t do it by the rules!
Bottom line: The best time of day to work out is the time that you personally will be able to complete a workout consistently over time. Many people swear by starting their day out with exercise, and many others use physical activity as a way to wind down from the stress of a hectic work day in the evenings. Personally, I love morning exercise; but when I find a client who won’t go for top o’ the mornin’ workouts, I suggest another time of day that works. Be true to yourself — so you do something.