What is the Best Time of Day to Work Out?

 •  February 28, 2020

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woman working out

Its common knowledge that a consistent exercise routine is beneficial to your health. But is there a right time of the day to exercise? As a busy mom, I'm usually happy to squeeze in a workout whenever I can make it fit in the day but I also want to make sure I'm making the most of my time. One thing I've noticed is that a morning workout sets me up for success the rest of the day. I tend to be more alert at work, make better choices with my food, and generally feel good about doing something to take care of myself. According to one study, these feelings aren't just my imagination. After vigorous exercise, we tend to be less likely to eat needlessly, especially if that exercise occurs in the morning.

If I skip a morning workout, I often find myself sitting for longer periods of time but when I feel invigorated, I make more use of my sit-stand desk and move around more. Sitting for long periods of time increases your level on inactivity in your day and has been linked to higher rates of obesity, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol levels. We know that these factors can also lead to a slower metabolism so it becomes a cycle that is difficult to break.

It can be hard to get out of bed early, especially when you're already overworked. However, the benefits of starting your day on the right foot are felt throughout the day. Here are some ways to build the routine:

  • Set your phone's alarm for an early bedtime. Getting the sleep you need will help you feel more able to get moving in the morning.
  • Prepare your workout gear the night before. Set it out, including headphones, clothes, water bottle, athletic shoes, and whatever else you will need. Not having to search for items in the morning will make working out an easy choice.
  • Use the “blast-off” method. If your alarm goes off and you don't feel like sitting up, you will likely lose your motivation within seconds. Countdown backwards from 5 to “launch” yourself out of bed.
  • Be mindful of your after-workout feeling. Take a moment to stop and appreciate how good you feel after a workout and make a mental note of it. Congratulate yourself for making a healthy choice and draw on that the next time you lack motivation.
  • Use an app to track your progress. Setting small goals and meeting them can help you get excited for your next accomplishment.

people doing yoga

Of course, as I said before, any consistent exercise routine is good. If the only way you can get a workout in is to take a night class, then you should feel great about continuing with that pattern. But if you have the flexibility and motivation to get your workout in at the start of the day, then it seems like you'll be getting more for value for your efforts. And when I'm really struggling, I try to remind myself that is often is about priorities and making a choice. Michelle Obama would famously get up at 4:30 AM to fit a workout into her busy day because it was that important to her. At a certain point, though, there is something to be said for getting enough sleep to actually find the legs of your workout pants.

Sources: Hanlon, Bliss, et al. “Neural Response to Pictures of Food after Exercise in Normal-Weight and Obese Women.” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22617393.
Edward R. Laskowski, M.D. “Sitting Risks: How Harmful Is Too Much Sitting?” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 8 May 2018, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/sitting/faq-20058005.
Weingus, Leigh. “Here's What Michelle Obama's Workout Routine Looks Like Now.” Mindbodygreen, Mindbodygreen, 12 Nov. 2018, www.mindbodygreen.com/0-29061/heres-what-michelle-obamas-workout-routine-looks-like-now.html.

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