How to Tell If Working Out at Night Is Right for You

Exercise not only helps you lose weight, but also reduces the risk of heart disease and some cancers. The easiest time of day to work out varies from person to person. Your school or work schedule, shifting energy levels, and normal bedtime can all influence the time of day you hit the gym. But even if you're busy during the day, is late night exercise right for you?

Nighttime may be the right time for you to work out. (Image: proxyminder/iStock/GettyImages)

Tip

Working out at night is often most convenient for busy people. But it's important to listen to your body, too.

Determine Your Circadian Rhythms

Athletic performance may vary according to the time of day that exercise is performed. That's mostly due to the body's circadian rhythms. Controlled by hormones in the body, circadian rhythms dictate physical and behavioral patterns like sleep, mood, metabolism and body temperature.

For many people, lung function is best in the late afternoon. But because each individual's circadian rhythms differ, late-night exercise may actually be better for some people.

Body Temperature Also Plays a Part

Workouts may be more productive when body temperatures are highest. For the average person, body temperatures rise between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. During this period, 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, according to the American Council of Sports Medicine.

For this reason, late afternoon and early evening may be a prime time for cardio. On the other hand, men may have better results with weight training in the morning, when testosterone levels are at their peak.

Late-Night Exercise May Affect Sleep

For some people, working out before bed leads to insomnia. Avoid sleep problems related to evening exercise by doing light or moderate workouts, rather than strenuous exercise. Give yourself ample time for the cool-down segment of your exercise. Make time for at least three to five minutes at the end of your workout to move at a much slower pace.

This slowdown portion of your workout regulates your heart rate, breathing and hormone levels. And don't skip that post-workout stretch. Stretching relaxes your muscles, improves circulation and helps your body relax for sleep.

Follow Your Own Instincts

One size doesn't fit all when it comes to the perfect time of day to work out. For example, the American Council on Exercise states that the majority of people are more likely to stick to their fitness goals if they exercise in the morning.

On the other hand, there's some evidence that night owls reach a peak of 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. But what's more important than the time of day that you work out is that you do exercise.

Don't Be Afraid to Experiment

To see how working out before bed affects your sleep and exercise performance, consider maintaining an exercise, food and sleep journal. Note the time you worked out, the type of exercise you did, the intensity and the duration.

Next, make a note of whether it was easy to fall asleep after working out before bed, if you slept through the night and whether you woke up energized or sluggish. By collecting data, you'll be able to adjust your habits to improve your training or the quality of your sleep.

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