Morning Vs. Evening Workouts: What Are The Benefits Of Each?

Few lifestyle habits can have a positive impact on one's overall health as regular physical activity does. According to the CDC, those who sit less and flex their muscles more can expect to have better weight management, stronger bones and muscles, more resilient brain health, and lower heart disease risks. Participating in physical activity also helps you overcome functional limitations that come with age — such as grocery shopping, climbing stairs, and playing with grandchildren. Not to mention, exercising is the most affordable way to stretch your longevity. Findings published in the journal Circulation show that people who exercised 300 to 600 minutes per week reduced their risk of dying from any cause by up to 31%.

While most of us are no strangers to the physical and mental benefits of workouts, we don't always have time for exercise. When we're overwhelmed with urgent tasks and family obligations, slotting in a 20-minute exercise before dinner sounds like mission impossible. For those working on nine-to-five jobs or with heavily jam-packed schedules, working out early in the morning or after dinner time is the only way to keep fit. Just as your body temperature fluctuates at different times of the day, morning exercises can give you different benefits from evening ones. If you're hemming and hawing between morning versus evening workouts, check out the perks that come with each, so you know which is more likely to work out for you.

Morning workouts help you lose more fat

Morning workouts can help you burn more fat than afternoon or evening workouts. A study published in the journal Frontiers by a Skidmore College research team that followed a group of women on their 12-week exercise programs concluded that women who worked out in the morning lost more fat in addition to lowered blood pressure, while those who worked out in the evening saw increased upper-body muscular growth.

According to Anthony Hackney, professor of exercise and sport science at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, working out on an empty stomach in the morning is an excellent way to shed more pounds as it helps your body burn stored fat healthily. "In the early morning hours, you have a hormonal profile that would predispose you to better metabolism of fat," Hackney tells TIME. Engaging in 45 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise in the morning can also help reduce your appetite for the rest of the day, as a study by researchers at BYU shows. In the experiment that involved 35 female participants, those who worked out in the morning found their attentional response to the food pictures decreased, and they did not eat more food on the exercise day to make up for the extra calories they burned in exercise. Since cutting down on calories and burning more of them is the key to healthy weight loss, exercising in the morning is like killing two birds with one stone.

Morning workouts help you sleep better

Turns out, being an active early riser can help you sleep better at the end of the day. According to a study conducted by researcher Dr. Shelley S. Tworoger (via WebMD), morning exercisers who worked out at least 3.5 to 4 hours a week had less trouble falling asleep, while those working out for less than three hours per week didn't see any improvements in their sleeping patterns. Dr. Tworoger also observed that late-night exercises have greater difficulty falling asleep than those in the morning.

"Exercising in the morning daylight helps you to sleep," says Dr. Sofie Laage-Christiansen of Aarhus University (via ScienceNordic). "It helps to kick-start the brain in the same way as when you expose yourself to bright light early in the morning, and it makes the body release melatonin earlier in the evening." Outdoor physical activity in the early morning boosts sleep rhythms and, later in the evening, signals your body to produce melatonin — a hormone responsible for controlling your sleep pattern and helping you sleep better.

Laage-Christiansen also points out that waking up half an hour earlier to exercise helps you to better avail yourself of the waking hours and prepare for the day ahead. Most people think that morning exercises will make them feel drowsier and grumpier, which can't be more untrue. Your body generates feel-good hormones such as adrenaline when you exercise, which helps awaken your senses and makes you feel raring to face the remainder of the day.

There's more energy for late-night workouts

If you're not a morning person, there's nothing to worry about. You can work out in the evening and still gain lots of benefits. According to trainer TJ Mentus (via Bustle), saving your exercises for the evening — especially after a full day of eating — makes you feel more energetic and flexible compared to in the morning. "This is due to higher body temperature later in the day, which increases flexibility and strength," explains Mentus. With more power comes greater time to exhaustion. According to research published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, exercising in the evening can increase time to exhaustion by up to 20%. It means you can work out harder for longer, being able to achieve your fitness goals without having to train to failures.

Besides, a moderate to high-intensity post-meal workout — depending on your preferences — also aids in digestion and relieves bloating. To fuel your post-dinner activity and avoid stomach issues, it's wise to keep your meal light and only start exercising one to two hours after eating. A healthy snack such as a peanut butter sandwich, a low-fat granola bar, or a whole-grain bagel can also keep you strong throughout your workout. And on that note, if you're looking to shed some pounds, consider having smaller dinners and larger lunches instead. Your metabolism operates in its tip-top shape at lunchtime and slows down in the evening, meaning a large dinner before bedtime is more likely to become stored fat.

A late-night workout helps to release stress

Few things help you blow off some steam while getting into shape like a late-night workout. After a hard-working and stressful day going about work and life, a pre-bedtime sweaty session gives you the chance to disengage from the unpleasant experiences of the day and channel your frustrations into your exercises. Since physical activity can pump up your endorphins and distract you from day-to-day worries, it can be the perfect stress reliever and protect your body from the detrimental effects of stress, per Mayo Clinic.

Besides, pumping iron before bedtime can also help you fall asleep faster and improve your sleep quality. According to Sleep Foundation, if you tend to wake up a lot during the night, it might help to incorporate a mild to moderate exercise into your evening routine. For instance, resistance training such as weight-lifting or moderate aerobic training such as swimming or cycling done in the early evening are ideal for minimizing nightly awakenings. When you return from an evening workout, take some time to soak your feet in a warm bath. After a hard-working day, a relaxing foot bath relaxes your muscles, increases blood circulation, relieves anxiety, and helps you fall asleep faster. To achieve the maximum benefits of exercising on your sleep quality, you can work out both in the morning and at night.