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When’s the Best Time to Workout?



Reader Malcolm Cadden asks:

“I want to get fit, but cannot decide when I should be working out. Is it better for my health to workout in the morning or at night?”

Sigrid de Castella – ‘Half the Woman I Was’ Author, Speaker and Health and Business Coach

Many people swear by morning workouts, but is there a ‘best’ time of day to maximise your exercise efforts? Science says there is, but is science right?

Yes, science apparently has the answer, but it’s not the same for everyone. Studies reveal that to get the most out of your workout means you have to be at your ‘best’ – both physically and mentally – to be able to put as much into your workout as possible, as consistently as you can.

Your Biological Rhythm

But what time of day are you at your ‘best’? Well, science says this entirely depends on your biological rhythm, and it’s not the same for everyone. Rhythms are influenced by your sleeping and waking habits, so your peak exercise time will usually vary in-line with the time of day you are at your most alert.

However, when it comes to working out, there are many other factors to consider other than how alert you are. These include:

  • The consistency of your workouts.
  • How effective you sleep at night.
  • Your stress levels.
  • The environmental conditions of exercise.
  • The convenience.
  • Location and availability of your workout.
  • How your workout influences your day-long performance.
  • Your workout’s relative safety.

Any one of these factors, or a combination of them, can seriously reduce the effectiveness of your chosen workout, not to mention the impact of the type of workout you choose to do.

Morning Workouts

Many report that the morning workout is high-effective, especially before eating a healthy breakfast, as it encourages an all-day fat burn. Others proclaim that an evening workout will help you to continue to burn calories while you sleep.

And science again reveals some more influencers. Generally speaking, morning workouts can assist with fat loss or fat storage prevention as well as increased serotonin levels improving your mood and fighting depression all day long. Plus once your morning work’s done, it’s done for the day.

Evening Workouts

Evening workouts can be best for high strength work, help tire you out for a better night’s sleep as well as be part of a convenient after-work schedule. But end-of-day lethargy may cause your enthusiasm to wane and for you to skip your workout.

Midday Workouts

And, as you would expect, daytime or afternoon workouts sit somewhere in the middle. It’s a bit like Goldilocks and the three bears. Everyone is different.

Workout When You Feel Your Best

Look, there’s no ‘one fits all’ answer to this complex question. The simple answer is if you feel better working out in the morning, then do that. If you’d rather use exercise to de-stress during or just after a long day in the office then by all means, go for it. And if you’re a night-owl and hunger for that pre or post-dinner surge then why not take advantage of all those new 24-hour gyms opening up.

In the end, it’s all about personal choice. Do what works for you best. If you’re not sure, then alternate the time of your workout and see what feels best. In the end, the most important bit of any workout is that you do it.

Sigrid de Castella is an internationally published author, speaker, and coach in the fields of health and business. Her book “Half The Woman I Was – How I lost 70kg naturally, reclaimed my life … and how you can too!” has received international acclaim and has been hailed as the most comprehensive weight loss book on the market. Sigrid has also studied Personal Training with the Fitness Institute Australia and has a keen interest in whole food nutrition, natural therapies and all aspects of physical and mental health. Sigrid and holds a BBA from RMIT University and is a member of both the Australian Institute of Managers and the Australian Society of Authors.

Sigrid logo

Nick Jack – CHEK Holistic Lifestyle Coach and Personal Trainer

This is a common question that I am regularly asked. My response is, “The best time to workout is the one where you feel that you’re at your best and can do consistent quality workouts.”

Workout Quality and Consistency

Quality and consistency are the two main ingredients of your workout because the benefits of physical activity are tightly linked to how good your workout is and the amount you do on a consistent basis. We are all so different, so workout at a time that suits you best. I am not a morning person so forcing me to do a workout at 6 am will not work for me. I feel half drained and just do not function well at this time of the morning, so my workout will be compromised. If, however, I can do my workout at 11 am or even 4 pm, I find I can push myself that little bit more. Then I take on that exercise that I hate and conquer it. I may even push out an extra set because I feel like I have a bit more in the tank.

But that is me. You might be completely different and feel that by the day’s end that you feel physically drained from work and just need to relax. So the mere thought of putting your running shoes and workout gear on would be like working out after a long game of football. You’d have zero enthusiasm and very heavy legs.

Your Lifestyle

Life stress and pressures from your job and family responsibilities are things that must be considered when planning your workout. On top of that you also need to consider these factors:

  • How you handle stress.
  • How well you sleep.
  • How often you train.

These are all additional factors that can determine what time is the best time to train. Why? Well, if you are not rested enough when trying to push your body to the limits, you risk injury or illness, and you’ll also compromise the effect of the workout.

More Workouts Do Not Equal Better Results

Only quality workouts equal better results.

The no pain, no gain attitude is what ruins athletes, and the smart athletes understand that recovery is just as important as the training, if not more so. This is what is known as progressive overload.

The key to getting better results is to assist the recovery stage by using strategies to enhance the repair process. If you were to introduce a recovery method at the point of fatigue, you could expect to reduce the length of time it will take to recover from training. So you can move ahead with your program more rapidly.

The Best Time to Workout

The body responds to stress by adapting to cope with it better. So training at a time where you feel well rested and alert will help you to achieve a better workout. And if that time is 6.30pm, because that’s when you feel your best, then that is the BEST TIME FOR YOU to do your training.

So all this information about working out first thing in the morning, as it will fire up your metabolism, is both right and wrong. It’s ‘wrong’ if you are not a person who functions well that time of day. But, it’s ‘right’ if you do.

The only time of day that I would apply caution to is training after 8 pm. Many people struggle to sleep after exercising late at night. Not getting enough sleep is severely detrimental to your recovery. My advice to the individual who likes to train this late is as long as you get to bed by 10.30pm and can sleep well, then that is fine. But if you struggle to get to bed on time, or get up throughout the night, then you might need to find a new strategy and elect to train a bit earlier.

The main point to take from this article is define what is best for you. This will give you the answer you need. Remember Quality and Consistency is the key.

Nick Jack is a qualified CHEK Exercise Coach, Level II Holistic Lifestyle Coach and personal trainer. He runs a personal training business called NO Regrets Personal Training.

Nick likes to lift weights, cycle, run and triathlon. He has played almost every sport at one time in his life. Now, he enjoys spending time walking his dog and relaxing with his wife and friends.

Sara Colquhoun – Pilates Instructor

What a great question. Often I’m asked what time you burn the most calories, does exercising of an evening mean a better nights’ sleep, and is one time really better than another?

I personally don’t believe there is one formula that fits all. There are probably a million studies to suggest exercising first thing in the morning is best to kick start your metabolism, and another million that say exercising in the evening is better to get rid of all the stress and tension after a full day at work. For me, it’s important to ask yourself what works best for you?

Everyone is Different

Over the years, I have trained hundreds of people from elite athletes to desk workers, to circus performers, and that has taught me that everyone is different.

For years I believed exercising first thing in the morning was best for me, every day I would be up rain, hail or shine to fit in my workout even though I was working late into the evening. Hence, this was compromising my sleep and only getting between 4-5 hours each night. For a while, I  was left scratching my head when my metabolism didn’t kick in to gear as it should have done after an early morning workout before realising my lack of sleep was having a negative affect on my outcomes; who knew sleep was so important.

This made me realise my mind loved working out at that time but my body did not. Now I have found a compromise and do a mix of morning, afternoon and evening workouts depending on my schedule each day.

I have seen this happen to people I teach too, where they want to do a 6:30 am session because it fits into their day. However their body needs time to wake up and tiredness meant them made little to no improvement in their practice. I remember one client in particular switched to evenings after years of morning sessions and she improved out of sight.

Find Out What Works For You

To sum up, my advice is to experiment with what works for your schedule and most importantly your mind-body connection. Timing your workout at a certain time of day might mean burning an extra couple of calories but if you’re not feeling it, then is it really right for you?


One of the most accomplished Pilates instructors for her age, Sara Colquhoun has been training in Pilates since the age of 14, and teaching since the age of 17. Her clients include elite AFL players and Australian Ballet dancers.

Sara’s background as a performing artist in dance – attending The Victorian College of the Arts after moving from Sydney at the age of 18 – led her to the natural progression of becoming an instructor.

After completing her diploma in dance and performing arts, Sara pursued a career in Pilates under guidance of Pilates International.  She is now owns and manages her own studio Ki Movement Pilates located on Clarendon Street in South Melbourne.

Throughout her teaching career Sara has trained AFL players from the Western Bulldogs, Australian Ballet dancers, VCA students, Musical theatre performers (Jersey Boys, West – “Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today” ~ Robert McKee 2  Side Story), Cirque de Soleil artists, all the way to radio presenters.

Sara’s highlight in her career to date is the recent accolade of winning the international competition to become the next Pilates Anytime instructor. She is one of the youngest instructors to join such an elite group of trainers on the site with direct lineage from founder of the movement, Joseph Pilates. Pilates Anytime is a global platform that has viewers from all around the world who will be watching and performing Sara’s classes.

She has big plans for bringing knowledge of body awareness, general health, well-being and an education of Pilates, along with communicating the benefits it has across all aspects of functional movement to everyday life.

Instagram and Twitter: @Pilates_Sara | #Pilatesbysara

Facebook: www.facebook.com/pilatesbysara

Website: http://www.saracolquhoun.com

Website: http://kipilates.com.au/ (Coming soon)


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Disclaimer: The information published in this column is based on each of the author’s own professional and personal knowledge and opinion. This information and opinion is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any manner. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition and consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional or exercise program. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on InShape News.


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