If you're new to the fitness game, and even if you're not, you might be wondering when the best time to work out is. The answer partially depends on your exercise goals. Here's what you should know.
Fitness Goal: Weight Loss
If you exercise to lose weight or keep weight gain in check, and you think mornings are the best time to work out for weight control, you might be on to something. A 2012 Medicine and Science in Sports Exercise study found that morning exercise diminishes the visual appeal of food while another found that training in the fasted state improves glucose tolerance in high-fat diets.
Yet the research is not conclusive. Another study discovered that, among post-menopausal women, evening walks might be more beneficial. The research found that women who walked in the evening were more likely to eat more in the mornings, which is the best time to eat. Instead of looking for the best physiological answer, find the time that works best for you and develop a consistent pattern of activity that burns more calories than you consume.
Fitness Goal: Strength Training
Many people exercise to build strength and increase muscle mass. After all, exercise plays a role "as a time setting cue for muscle and other peripheral tissues." Like understanding the optimal workout time for weight loss, however, there is no significant difference in muscle growth between morning and afternoon workouts. One study did report an association between morning strength training and improved afternoon physical performance.
Dr. Todd Miller, an associate professor of exercise science at George Washington University, says it really comes down to personal preference. Discussing the effects of testosterone on exercise in a Washingtonian report, Dr. Miller says that the best time for resistance training is "highly variable and personal." Whenever one chooses to work out, he stresses the importance of getting a good night's sleep in maintaining healthy testosterone levels.
Fitness Goal: Cardiovascular Health
A study published in Vascular Health Risk Management suggests morning exercise benefits nocturnal blood pressure. Besides improved heart health, lowered blood pressure in the evenings makes for a better night's sleep, which is good for overall health.
The American Heart Association says the best time to exercise for heart health depends on a "constellation of factors." These include the type of activity, social setting, and location. What is most important is that you exercise consistently at whatever time of day works best for you.
Only you can determine the best time to work out. Maybe it's safer or more convenient to exercise at a particular time of day. The bottom line is to do the best you can to stay on track with your goals, and remember that exercise at any time of day is better than no exercise at all.