The Pros and Cons of Nighttime Workouts

Pros and Cons of Working Out at Night

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Whether it's due to your work schedule, family obligations, or simply when your body is at its best, opting to exercise at night might be the ideal way for you to stay consistent with your workout routine. While you may miss out on group classes or that morning boost before going into the office, there are plenty of advantages to gain from being a night owl at the gym.

Benefits of Working Out at Night

If you work out at night at a gym, one of the biggest benefits is that it is less crowded. But that's just the tip of the benefits iceberg. What you may not know is working out at night can increase your performance, endurance, exercise duration, and more.

Improve Your Performance

If you feel like your workout is less efficient in the mornings, chances are high you're onto something—there's science behind that! A 2013 study analyzed four markers of physical activity, including oxygen uptake and anaerobic capacity, among 20 healthy men and found that the participants could exercise 20% harder and longer in the evening versus morning hours.

Other studies have shown that a higher body temperature later in the day contributes to greater flexibility and muscle strength.

Mentally Refresh From the Day

Working out first thing in the morning gives you a boost of energy before tackling your day, as well as less time to come up with excuses to get out of your workout later on.

But, clocking in exercise after work or a hectic day gives you an opportunity to disconnect, even temporarily, from the day's stresses thanks to exercise-induced endorphins that positively impact your mood. Research has also shown that physical activity can even help buffer against future stress.

Try Popular New Equipment

If you're working out much later in the evening, such as after 10 p.m., you'll likely have the gym to yourself. Take advantage of the empty club to have a little fun with your workout. If you've been nervous to attempt a new-to-you machine around others, this is a great time to give it a go. And if there are certain machines that usually have a line during the day, you most likely won't have to wait at night.

Get Better Sleep

Contrary to popular belief, working out before bed doesn't necessarily wreak havoc on sleep—as long as you're doing moderate exercise, like a run or bike ride. In fact, a moderate workout before catching z's can increase slow-wave sleep, the deepest stage of sleep. The key is avoiding very intense activity.

Boost Your Nutrition

Much like the exercising-before-bed theory, the notion that eating at night causes weight gain has been largely debunked—as long as the pre-bedtime meal is small, nutrient-dense, and consists of single macronutrients.

A 2015 review found that young, active individuals who drank a protein beverage after a workout and before bed had a higher concentration of amino acids compared to those who consumed a placebo, indicating that the protein was better absorbed and digested during sleep.

Downsides of Night Workouts

Unlike working out first thing in the morning, one of the most challenging aspects of working out in the evening and at night is the potential for other plans or obstacles to get in the way and create an excuse to skip exercising. Here are other points to consider.

Exercise Can Disrupt Sleep

While moderate exercise can benefit your sleep, doing something more intense, like high-intensity interval training (HIIT), less than an hour before your bedtime can negatively impact your sleep efficiency and cause you to wake up more times during sleep. If nighttime is the only time you can fit in a workout, consider trying less vigorous exercise, such as light jogging or yoga.

Lack of Group Classes

While some gyms and studios may offer night time classes, many instructor-led group workouts are offered during the day or in the early evening. The availability of later classes may depend on where you live.

Keep in mind there are perks to working out with a large group. One study found that those who participated in group exercise classes had higher perceived physical and emotional health than those who worked out solo or with up to two other people.

Harder to Build Consistency

A 2018 study found that people who exercise in the morning are most likely to stay consistent with their workouts versus those who lace up in the afternoon or evening.

This finding may be due to the fact that when you exercise later in the day, there's more time to get sidetracked by things like spontaneous plans or the temptation to watch TV. But, everyone's daily routine is different. If you prefer evening workouts, you can build consistency by scheduling your workout and sticking to your commitment.

6 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Paige Waehner, CPT
Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer," and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness."