If your goal is to lose weight, developing an exercise routine is crucial. But does timing matter — for instance, does working out before bed contribute to weight loss more or less than other times of day?
Whether or not you partake in night workouts specifically, there's no doubt that regular exercise does help you lose weight. Case in point: A January 2014 study in Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases evaluated various types of exercise and their effect on weight loss, and found that a combination of cardio and resistance training was most effective, especially if you do high volumes of cardio.
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The study found that cardio can help you lose weight by itself, but throwing in some strength training can help you build muscle and burn fat. As an added bonus, it'll give your workout a little more variety.
Now, does working out before bed enhance this weight loss? Here's how evening exercise could affect your efforts to shed pounds.
1. It Could Help Reduce Nighttime Snacking
Exercise at night could indirectly support your weight-loss efforts. For instance, running before bed (or whatever activity you chose) could help you cut back on habits that contribute to weight gain, like snacking.
In fact, cardio before bed — specifically, high-intensity interval training — has been linked to decreased production of grehlin, the hormone that triggers hunger, per a February 2019 study in Experimental Physiology. However, only 11 people were included in this research, so larger studies are needed to better establish this connection and the link between working out before bed and weight loss.
2. It Can Improve Your Sleep
While you may assume that nighttime exercise — like a run before bed — will keep you up later than planned, it's actually the opposite. If you exercise at night to lose weight, it may also benefit your sleep.
For instance, a February 2019 study in Sports Medicine found that evening exercise helped people fall asleep faster and spend more time in deep sleep.
And while this isn't necessarily the key to how to lose weight at night, getting better sleep could support your weight-loss journey indirectly. According to a February 2022 study in JAMA Internal Medicine, getting a solid snooze can help reduce your overall calorie intake the next day, which can contribute to weight loss.
On the flip side, lack of sleep can mess with your metabolism (which can disrupt fat burning overnight and during the day), stimulate your appetite (especially for high-calorie, high-carb foods) and is linked to a increased risk for obesity, per the Sleep Foundation.
Looking for exercises to do in bed to lose weight? Try this 20-minute full-body workout.
3. It May Be Your Only Opportunity to Exercise
The key to building an exercise routine and losing weight is consistency, so you need to build a schedule that gives you time to move your body. And if that means midnight workouts, that's OK.
Indeed, an April 2015 study in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine found that exercising at least four times a week for six weeks was the minimum requirement for establishing an exercise habit.
While people who exercise in the morning tend to be more consistent than those who work out at night, you can certainly exercise at night if that's what works best for you, according to the American Council on Exercise.
- Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases: "The Role of Exercise and Physical Activity in Weight Loss and Maintenance"
- Experimental Physiology: "Evening high-intensity interval exercise does not disrupt sleep or alter energy intake despite changes in acylated ghrelin in middle-aged men"
- Journal of Behavioral Medicine: "Exercise habit formation in new gym members: a longitudinal study"
- American Council on Exercise: "The Best Time to Exercise"
- JAMA Internal Medicine: "Effect of Sleep Extension on Objectively Assessed Energy Intake Among Adults With Overweight in Real-life Settings"
- Sports Medicine: "Effects of Evening Exercise on Sleep in Healthy Participants: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis"
- Sleep Foundation: "Weight Loss and Sleep"
- “Exercise for Weight Management”; Gustav Mark Gedatus; 2001
- “Weight Loss Made a Bit Easier”; Larry Zafran; 2011