Is there really a best time to go to the gym?

Exercise offers immense benefits that can help you be more productive, look better, live longer, and feel your very best. You’ve heard this all before and maybe you’ve already started an exercise program. But you may be wondering: When is the best time to work out? The answer is pretty simple. The best time to work out is the one that matches your lifestyle.

Woman at gym working out with trainer

Have it your way. No, really

There can be specific benefits from early morning, afternoon, and even late night workouts. It’s less a matter of when but more a matter of simply putting in the effort. Working out is most beneficial when you think of the long term. What can you commit to? What works best with your other daily activities? When do you feel your best training?

Working out and going to the gym are pretty generalist terms that can describe everything from ultra-low intensity minutes on an elliptical to hours of powerlifting or HIIT sprint training. As a result, it’s a little tough to compare the way one person goes to the gym versus another. You really need to practice and figure out what is best for you.

A lifelong athlete is going to react differently to exercise than someone who is desperately trying to break out of the couch potato lifestyle. That’s OK, though. One of the most important things exercise can teach anyone is how to listen to your body and respond to the information it is giving you.

Exercise is a very personal thing. You do not need to do what your partner does. You do not need to join your friends in their must-do class. It could be quite fun, but ultimately it’s up to you to decide how and when to exercise. Science supports this. There are benefits to exercise at any time of day. The main thing is all physical exercise is beneficial when we listen to our bodies and push ourselves within healthy limits.

Working out is one of the best ways to test the mind, body, and spirit to learn what your limits are. This is one of the things we love most about training. Few other aspects of our lives allow us to consistently push ourselves to be better with the precision offered by sports.

Can you run farther? Can you jump higher? Can you get stronger? Answering these questions can be a perfect way to build a trajectory of constant improvement that you can carry over into other areas of your life.

Morning, noon and night – it doesn’t matter

That’s why it’s not easy to answer a question like this in a very specific way. If you have no trouble waking up before the sun rises and hitting a full session before heading to work, great. The morning might be your perfect training window.

Morning workouts are very popular for jumpstarting the body’s metabolism and ensuring that we start the day already in a caloric deficit. Depending on your fitness and body composition goals, this could be a powerful way to start the day with your best foot forward. Additionally, morning workouts can get your entire body functioning at a high level so the normal wear and tear of work feels less demanding. This is especially true for those who work sedentary desk jockey jobs.

If you prefer to start your normal day and workout during a pause in the afternoon, this is also a great schedule to keep as long as it works for you. For many people, this is the perfect recipe for finishing the end of the workday strong. They find that a power hour in the middle of the day allows them to return to their desk with an increased sense of vitality and well-being that lets them keep up the intensity through the final hours.

Finally, some of us are better suited for exercising in the evening or even late night hours. There is nothing wrong with that and many athletes find that closing out their days exercising is a great way to ensure a serene night’s sleep. Evening workouts are often better for people who work physically demanding day jobs. Many of them go grab some dinner, chill out a bit and then hit the gym just before heading off to sleep. This way they can soak up the recovery benefits of sleep and wake up refreshed.

Some of us like to mix it up. We train one way in one season and another way in another. We listen to our bodies and make sure to balance our working out with proper nutrition, rest. and other recreational activities. Some of us even mix in things like meditation, mindfulness training, or creative arts practice to build a balanced approach to rest and recovery.

The best workout is the one you do

No, seriously! Almost any exercise is better than sitting around all day. As long as you can find time to burn some calories you should be grateful. In the ancient past, our ancestors burned calories trying to feed themselves — not simply as a recreational pastime or effort to look better in a bikini. Respect the effort you put into training and realize that working out in the morning, afternoon, or evening can all work depending on your unique situation.

Man at gym working out with trainer
Jasminko Ibrakovic/

It doesn’t really matter when you train. What is more important is listening to your body and making smart choices that allow you to balance the different priorities in your life. If you are struggling with that part, keep at it and know that any practice gets easier the more you do it. That’s why working out is not a phase or fad. It’s a lifestyle and something you can practice improving across your entire life. OK, stop procrastinating and go hit your workout. You will feel better once it is behind you.

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