The Pros and Cons of Nighttime Workouts

Young woman jogging on a bridge at nighttime

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Whether it's due to your work schedule, family obligations, or simply your preference, opting to exercise at night might be the best way for you to stay consistent with your workout routine. And 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

Being able to exercise in a less-crowded gym is the start. When you lace up after the sun goes down, your body can get a physiological boost, too.

Improve Your Performance

If you feel like your workout is less efficient in the mornings, 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.

Blow Off Steam From the Day

While working out first thing in the morning may give you a boost of energy before tackling your day—and fewer excuses to skip your workout—by clocking in exercise after work and family activities, you have 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 and 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 and keeping the activity intensity in the moderate range.

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 Working out at Night

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 a less vigorous exercise, such as easy 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 with 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.

A Word From Verywell

Whether you choose to exercise day or night, ultimately the best exercise regimen is the one you can stick to. Keep in mind that many studies have yielded conflicting answers on the best time of the day to work out, so it's difficult to pinpoint a superior option. If you do work out in the evenings and nights, it's important to use caution. Park in a well-lit area close to the entrance and consider carrying a whistle or mace to protect yourself.

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