Have you ever wondered if, scientifically, there was an optimal time of day to work out? Whether you want to know for that extra boost of motivation or because you want to be as efficient as possible, we look at how to maximize your workout based on the time of the day.

Body Temperature

Body temperature follows circadian rhythm – the body’s various cycles that conform to the daily 24-hour light-dark pattern. According to the American Council on Exercise, for most of the population body temperature is highest in afternoon and lowest in the early morning. Higher body temperature has consistently been shown to yield better results from exercise. This means exercising in the afternoon or early evening will be more productive than in the morning.

Everyone’s temperature cycle will be slightly different. If you’d really like to be precise, measure and record your body temperature every few hours for five or six consecutive days. Then schedule your exercise during the period a few hours either side of your peak temperature.

Morning vs Night

If your natural tendency is to rise at dawn and the thought of exercising at 6pm makes you cringe, don’t panic. Morning workouts have been studied and written about and have advantages of their own.

First, exercising is always beneficial, even if it’s not at the optimum time of day. For the early crowd, there is a correlation between morning workouts and consistency. Those who do their exercise routine in the morning are more likely to stick with it. This is attributed to lack of interference. The day has just begun and there hasn’t been opportunity for anything to get in the way of one’s workout. Practitioners of morning exercise frequently report having more energy and focus throughout the rest of the day.

There are other benefits as well. Mornings at the gym tend to be less crowded than evenings, making it easier to quickly get the equipment you want. Exercising earlier in the day tends to inspire a good breakfast and drinking plenty of water. It can also motivate you to get to bed earlier.

Lifestyle

Lifestyle plays a huge role in how you exercise. Work, children, appointments and social life can all force working out to take a back seat. The most important part of an exercise routine is actually exercising. This may seem self evident, but it can be easy to come up with a schedule and then only implement it half the time. Picking workout times that are realistic for your schedule and disposition will always be better than the ideal time if you can’t stick with it.

If you can make time for it, exercise is going to be most productive later in the day. This shouldn’t dissuade early birds from their morning workout since mornings have their perks as well. The key principle is that any exercise is better than no exercise, regardless of time of day.