Exercise is known to improve health and may reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers. Determining the best time of day to work out can vary from person to person. Factors including busy schedules, lack of energy during certain times of the day, and quality of sleep may determine the time of day you exercise. Essentially, focusing on getting regular, daily exercise is more important than the time of day you do it.
Athletic performance may vary according to the time of day exercise is performed, which is mostly attributed to the body's circadian rhythms, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center explains. Circadian rhythms, controlled by hormones in the body, dictate physical and behavioral patterns in the body, including sleep, mood, metabolism and body temperature. Because each individual's circadian rhythms differ, the best time of day to exercise essentially depends on the individual.
Workouts may be more productive when body temperatures are highest, which is between 2 o'clock and 6 o'clock p.m., explains UPMC. During this time, muscles are more flexible, perceived exertion is low, reaction time is quicker, strength is at its peak, and resting heart rate and blood pressure are low, states the American Council on Exercise. Therefore late afternoon and early evening may be a prime time for exercise.
Evening Exercise and Sleep
If you exercise too close to bed time, you may find it more difficult to fall asleep. You may be able to avoid sleep problems with evening exercise by doing light or moderate exercise as opposed to intense or strenuous exercise. Give yourself ample time for the cool-down segment of your exercise -- at least three to five minutes at the end of your workout wherein you perform the same exercise, but at a much slower pace in order to regulate your heart rate, breathing and hormone levels. Also, do not neglect to stretch after your workout. Stretching can relax your muscles, improve circulation and help you prepare better for sleep.
The American Council on Exercise states that those who exercise in the morning are generally more likely to stick to a consistent routine than those who exercise at other times, but more important than the time of day you exercise is that you do find the time to exercise. Working out with a partner will also help you stick to a consistent schedule. An article in Science Daily explains that “night owls” reach a peak in activity and energy in the evening and are more sluggish in the morning; if this characterizes you, you may find greater benefits from working out at night.
To see how different types of workouts affect your sleep and exercise performance, consider maintaining an exercise, food and sleep journal. Every night, write down the time your worked out, the type of exercise you did, the intensity and the duration. The following morning, make a note of whether it was easy to fall asleep, if you slept through the night and whether you woke up energized or sluggish. Note your dietary habits, especially before and after exercise, and how you performed at your next workout. By collecting data, you are able to adjust your diet to improve your training. Furthermore, you may then change the intensity, time and type of exercise you do at night to enhance your sleep.