When Is the Best Time to Work Out? Exercising During *This* Time of Day Might Be the Key to Longevity

We know what type of exercise is best based on our zodiac signEnneagram type and physical limitations. But does it really matter when we do said workouts? Apparently, yes…depending on your goals.

Sure, losing weight, gaining muscle and reducing stress are at the top of the list for many, but if you're simply looking to feel good while living a long and healthy life, longevity might be up there too. And as it turns out, there is a specific time of day when physical activity and longevity are more tightly linked: the afternoon.

when is the best time to work out girl going to exercise
Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

According to a new study published in the journal Nature Communications, afternoon exercise may help reduce the risk of premature death more than morning and evening workouts. This large-scale study analyzed data from over 90,000 men and women. After wearing an activity tracker for a week, the participants were organized into groups depending on how often and when they chose to move. After seven years, the researchers compared the movement patterns to the cohort’s mortality records (morbid, we know).

The least shocking correlation? The people who did moderate to vigorous physical activity lived longer than those that rarely worked out. But the most surprising discovery? Completing that exercise in the middle of the day might actually help you live longer.

The study found that participants (particularly both men and the elderly) who exercised between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. “showed significantly decreased risks of all-cause mortality” as well as a “lowered risk of cardiovascular disease mortality,” meaning afternoon movers were less likely to die of heart disease when compared to those who stuck to the morning or evening. These findings led researchers to declare that specific exercise timing “may have the potential to maximize the health benefits of daily [physical activity]," especially in regards to long-term health­—a claim that, up until now, had never been clear.

The Bottom Line

Timing aside, there's a boatload of research confirming any movement is good movement. So, whether you’re a sunrise sweater, lunchtime warrior or evening exerciser, you’ll reap the numerous health benefits that come along with moving your body. It's all about personal preference (and, ya know, your work-life balance).

If you’re curious how the other groups stacked up, read on for additional research-backed benefits of getting your sweat on in the morning or evening.

best time to work out morning
Thomas Barwick/getty images

Pros of Exercising in the Morning

Calling all early birds: If you prefer to get your sweat on shortly after the sun rises, you might be on to something (including cracking the code to a consistent routine). Keep reading to learn more about why, plus other benefits of working out in the a.m.

1. You Might Be More Likely to Stick with It

Let’s be honest: By the end of the day, we’re pooped. Even if we do feel like going to the gym, life often gets in the way. That’s why folks who sweat earlier in the day might find it easier to stick to a routine. Barbara Brehm, a professor of exercise and sports studies at Smith College, has a theory about why a.m. exercisers are so successful. “It’s because they get it out of the way first thing,” she says in her book, Psychology of Health and Fitness. “They haven’t been exposed to a whole day of draining activity and stress, which can leave you feeling pretty depleted by the end of the day.”

2. You Might Feel Happier Throughout the Day

Sure, it might take some time to get accustomed to an earlier alarm. But if Elle Woods taught us anything, it's that exercise gives you endorphins, and endorphins make you happy.

3. You Might Lose Weight Faster

That is if you’re exercising in the morning before having any food. It’s called fasted cardio, and we checked in with Denise Pate, doctor of internal medicine at Medical Offices of Manhattan, to learn more about it. She told us that the benefits of working out on an empty stomach “include increased lipolysis, fat oxidation and decreased insulin levels. Increased lipolysis is when the body breaks down fatty cells to use them as energy, and fat oxidation is when the body burns the energy from fat cells when the body's glycogen (our stored form of energy) is low.” That's a science-y way of saying that working out sans sustenance could translate to more weight loss.

best time to work out night
Klaus Vedfelt/getty images

Pros of Exercising at Night

This one's for you, night owls. If you're having a hard time getting a good night's sleep, you might want to try exercising once the sun has gone down. Read on for four other health benefits of working out at night.

1. You Might Get More Out Of Your Workout

This one comes down to having more time. In the morning, you’re more rushed to get in, out and ready for work. But at night, most people are able to put in some extra time. On top of that, gyms are usually less crowded after the morning rush.

2. You Might Sleep Better

Contrary to popular belief, getting your heart pumping too close to bedtime probably won’t mess with your sleep. In fact, a 2014 study published in the journal Sleep Medicine found that performing vigorous exercise 90 minutes before bedtime was associated with falling asleep faster, fewer wake-ups in the middle of the night and improved mood.

3. You Might Be Less Prone To Injury

Your internal temperature is higher at the end of the day than in the morning, making you more physically prepared to exercise. Similarly, muscular function and strength peak in the evening, meaning you might even be able to get a few more reps in.

4. You Might Be Less Stressed

After a particularly frustrating day, few things are as satisfying as a good workout. You don’t have to be a scientist to understand that a 45-minute boxing class is sometimes all you need to get over that jerk who took your parking spot.

sarah stiefvater

Wellness Director

Sarah Stiefvater is PureWow's Wellness Director. She's been at PureWow for ten years, and in that time has written and edited stories across all categories, but currently focuses...

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Executive Managing Editor

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