Regular exercise is crucial when you are seeking a healthier lifestyle and wanting to improve your fitness. While the timing of your workout can vary depending on personal preference and schedule constraints, the best time to work out is one that you can commit to consistently. Interestingly, exercising in the morning has gained recent attention for its numerous benefits, particularly in the context of weight loss.
This article explores the advantages of morning exercise and delves into whether it is superior to evening workouts for achieving your fitness and weight loss goals.
12 Benefits of Working Out In the Morning
Our bodies operate on a circadian rhythm, a natural internal clock that regulates various physiological processes over a 24-hour cycle. This rhythm affects our body temperature, hormone release, and metabolism. Research suggests that our bodies are primed for physical activity in the morning due to the alignment of these internal processes, which creates an environment for many other health benefits, including focus, weight management, mood, blood pressure, and more.1,9
One of the key hormones affected by circadian rhythms is cortisol. Cortisol, often called the "stress hormone," is vital in regulating energy and metabolism. Cortisol levels are typically highest in the morning, gradually decreasing throughout the day. This elevated cortisol level in the morning can provide an energy boost that makes morning workouts feel less strenuous.
Additionally, morning workouts can influence other hormones like testosterone. Testosterone, an anabolic hormone contributing to muscle growth, tends to be higher in the morning. This hormonal environment can enhance the effectiveness of strength training and muscle-building exercises.
Here is a list of some of the other health benefits of morning exercise:
- Improves sleep: Regular morning exercise has been linked to improved sleep quality. Physical activity early in the day can regulate your sleep-wake cycle and help you fall asleep more easily at night. Adequate sleep is crucial for weight loss, as poor sleep can disrupt hormonal balance and lead to overeating.2,3
- Promotes healthier food choices: Research studies have shown that those who work out in the morning tend to make healthier food choices throughout the day and regulate food intake throughout the day.8
- Boosts energy: Increased circulating oxygen levels and hormones like dopamine after a morning workout leave you feeling energized for your day.4
- Improves focus: Morning workouts can sharpen mental focus and clarity. The increased blood flow to the brain during exercise can lead to enhanced cognitive function, which can be especially advantageous for tasks requiring concentration, critical thinking, and creativity.4
- Supports weight loss: Morning exercise kickstarts your metabolism, leading to increased calorie burn throughout the day. The elevated metabolic rate helps you burn more calories even when you're at rest, contributing to weight loss and weight management.7,9
- Aids in appetite control: Certain studies have shown that exercising in the morning may help control or reduce appetite signals immediately after and within a 24-hour exercise. Appetite control related to cravings and blood sugar management is crucial for healthy weight loss.10
- Helps with blood sugar control: Those living with diabetes or poor blood sugar control tend to have higher glucose levels in the morning due to an elevated cortisol level. Morning exercise can help lower your blood sugar levels overall and stabilize them throughout the day.6,7
- Greater fat burning: Morning exercise can tap into your body's stored fat reserves for energy, as glycogen levels tend to be lower in the morning after fasting during sleep. This can lead to more efficient fat burning during your workout.5
- Increased muscle growth: Testosterone levels are typically higher in the morning, which is advantageous for muscle growth and strength training. Engaging in resistance exercises during this time can optimize your muscle-building potential.11
- Enhances mood: Exercise triggers the release of endorphins, often called "feel-good" hormones (i.e., dopamine). Engaging in physical activity in the morning can increase circulating levels of these feel-good hormones while helping to reduce stress and anxiety.3,4
- Aids blood pressure management: Engaging in morning exercise has been shown to result in lower blood pressure readings, especially when done consistently. Moderate-intensity activities like brisk walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming can help lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure.5,7
- Reduced stress and anxiety: Consistent morning exercise, even for just 30 minutes, has been shown to improve psychological function in adults who struggle with anxiety, depression, and insomnia.14
The benefits of morning workouts are significant and well-supported by science. Physical activity early in the day can boost metabolism, enhance mood, and establish a consistent routine. However, the effectiveness of morning versus evening workouts for weight loss ultimately depends on many individual factors.
Maintaining a consistent workout routine and pairing it with a balanced diet will help you shed pounds and feel healthier than ever.
Morning vs. Evening Exercise: Is Working Out In the Morning Better?
While morning workouts offer many benefits, it's important to consider whether they are definitively better than evening workouts for weight loss. The best time to exercise varies from person to person, and both morning and evening workouts have advantages and disadvantages.12,13
Some downsides to working out in the morning include interrupting your deep sleep, not having enough fuel to work out at higher intensities, feeling stiffer or less powerful in the morning, and needing more time to feel warmed up. Evening workouts allow you to consume multiple meals throughout the day, providing a greater energy source for a potentially more intense workout.
You also have more time to mentally prepare for your evening exercise session after completing the day's responsibilities. Yet, many individuals find they are too exhausted after a day’s work and life schedule to feel motivated for a workout. If you are a night owl, you may find that you have more energy at night and that an evening workout is a perfect fit for your lifestyle.
Both morning and evening workouts can yield results when considering the impact on weight loss. The most significant factor is consistency and adherence to a workout routine. The time of day matters less than your commitment to regular exercise and proper nutrition.
The decision between morning and evening workouts ultimately depends on your preferences, schedule, and other factors. Here are some considerations to help you make an informed choice:
- Personal Energy Levels: Some individuals naturally have more energy in the morning, while others feel more invigorated in the evening. Listen to your body's cues and choose a time that aligns with your energy patterns.
- Schedule Flexibility: Your daily commitments play a significant role. An evening workout might be more practical if you have a busy morning routine or work obligations. Conversely, a morning routine might be the better option if your evenings are often occupied.
- Fitness Goals: Your fitness objectives should also guide your decision. Consistency and proper nutrition are paramount if your primary goal is weight loss. Choose a time that allows you to maintain a regular workout routine.
- Adherence: The key to success is sticking to your chosen workout time. A morning routine might be more effective if you're more likely to skip workouts in the evening due to fatigue or other commitments.
Whether you work out in the morning or evening, the most important aspect is finding a sustainable approach that aligns with your lifestyle and supports your long-term health and fitness journey.
Tips to Become a Morning Exerciser
Making the transition to becoming a morning exerciser may be challenging at first unless you are already an early bird. Still, with the right strategies, you can establish a routine that benefits your physical and mental well-being. Here are some valuable tips to help you accomplish an early morning workout:
- Get your sleep: Prioritize getting enough sleep by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. This helps regulate your body's internal clock and makes waking up early easier.
- Start slowly: If you're new to morning exercise, start with shorter, less intense workouts and gradually increase the duration and intensity as your body adapts.
- Prepare your workout gear: Lay out your workout clothes and shoes the night before. This simple step eliminates the need to search for items in the morning, making it more convenient to start your exercise routine.
- Make time to hydrate and fuel: Drink a glass of water as soon as you wake up to rehydrate your body, and consider having an easily digestible snack about 30 minutes before your workout to optimize energy and hormone levels.
- Plan breakfast: The night before your workout, prepare a protein-rich breakfast that you can look forward to after your workout. Post-exercise protein can help enhance your recovery and aid in muscle building.
- Consider finding a workout buddy: Partner with a friend or family member who shares your fitness goals. If this is not possible, consider enlisting the help of a personal trainer for a few days a week. Knowing someone is waiting for you can motivate you to exercise.
- Do exercise you enjoy: Opt for exercises and cardio options that you genuinely enjoy, whether it's a brisk walk, yoga, jogging, or dancing. Looking forward to your morning activity makes it easier to get out of bed.
- Be patient and persistent: Developing a habit takes time. Be patient with yourself, and don't get discouraged by occasional setbacks. Consistency is key; over time, morning exercise will become second nature.
Incorporate these tips into your routine gradually, and remember that the journey to becoming a morning person is about finding what works best for you. As you begin to experience the physical and mental benefits of starting your day with exercise, you'll find that the effort is well worth it.
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Topics discussed in this article:
- Thomas, J. M., Kern, P. A., Bush, H. M., McQuerry, K. J., Black, W. S., Clasey, J. L., & Pendergast, J. S. (2020). Circadian rhythm phase shifts caused by timed exercise vary with chronotype. JCI insight, 5(3), e134270. https://doi.org/10.1172/jci.insight.134270
- Yuko Morita, Taeko Sasai-Sakuma, and Yuichi Inoue. (2017). Effects of acute morning and evening exercise on subjective and objective sleep quality in older individuals with insomnia. Journal of Sleep Medicine; 34: 200-208. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleep.2017.03.014.
- Nadeem Kalak, Markus Gerber, Roumen Kirov, Thorsten Mikoteit, Juliana Yordanova, Uwe Pühse, Edith Holsboer-Trachsler, and Serge Brand. (2012). Daily Morning Running for 3 Weeks Improved Sleep and Psychological Functioning in Healthy Adolescents Compared With Controls. Journal of Adolescent Health; 51(6): 615-622. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.02.020.
- Wheeler MJ, Green DJ, Ellis KA, et al. (2020). Distinct effects of acute exercise and breaks in sitting on working memory and executive function in older adults: a three-arm, randomized cross-over trial to evaluate the effects of exercise with and without breaks in sitting on cognitionBritish Journal of Sports Medicine; 54: 776-781.
- Arciero PJ, Ives SJ, Mohr AE, Robinson N, Escudero D, Robinson J, Rose K, Minicucci O, O’Brien G, Curran K, Miller VJ, He F, Norton C, Paul M, Sheridan C, Beard S, Centore J, Dudar M, Ehnstrom K, Hoyte D, Mak H and Yarde A. (2022) Morning Exercise Reduces Abdominal Fat and Blood Pressure in Women; Evening Exercise Increases Muscular Performance in Women and Lowers Blood Pressure in Men. Frontiers in Physiology; 13 (893783): 1 -16. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2022.893783
- Gomez, A. M., Gomez, C., Aschner, P., Veloza, A., Muñoz, O., Rubio, C., & Vallejo, S. (2015). Effects of performing morning versus afternoon exercise on glycemic control and hypoglycemia frequency in type 1 diabetes patients on sensor-augmented insulin pump therapy. Journal of diabetes science and technology, 9(3), 619–624. https://doi.org/10.1177/1932296814566233
- Moharramzadeh, M., & Saadati, L. The effect of morning exercise training movements on clinical indicators (weight, BMI, cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes) In women over 35 years in Ardabil city. The effect of morning exercise training movements on clinical indicators (weight, BMI, cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes) In women over 35 years in Ardabil city. http://repository.uma.ac.ir/id/eprint/12657
- Joo, J., Williamson, S., Vazquez, A.I., Fernández, J.R., & Bray, M.S. (2018). The Influence of 15-week Exercise Training on Dietary Patterns among Young Adults. International journal of obesity; 43, 1681 - 1690.
- Schumacher, L. M., Thomas, J. G., Raynor, H. A., Rhodes, R. E., & Bond, D. S. (2020). Consistent Morning Exercise May Be Beneficial for Individuals With Obesity. Exercise and sport sciences reviews, 48(4), 201–208. https://doi.org/10.1249/JES.0000000000000226
- Alizadeh, Z., Mostafaee, M., Mazaheri, R., & Younespour, S. (2015). Acute Effect of Morning and Afternoon Aerobic Exercise on Appetite of Overweight Women. Asian journal of sports medicine, 6(2), e24222. https://doi.org/10.5812/asjsm.6(2)20156.24222
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- Brooker, PG, Gomersall, SR, King, NA, Leveritt, MD. (2023). The efficacy of morning versus evening exercise for weight loss: A randomized controlled trial. Obesity (Silver Spring); 31(1): 83-95. doi:10.1002/oby.23605
- Branch, I. K. (2019). The Role of Morning Exercise on the Mental Health of the Students and Employees at NAJA (Case study: Shahid Dastghib Naja Training Center, Jahrom, Iran). Journal of Military Medicine, 20(6), 666-673.