Pros and Cons of Working Out at Night

small group of runners in urban invironment, evening training
Exercising at night isn't for everyone, but it does have a suite of benefits. Getty Images.

 Getty Images / Henrik Sorenson

Everyone has heard over and over again that the most successful people are those who rise before the sun, exercise first thing in the morning, and drink green smoothies for breakfast. The reality is that some people despise the idea of a to-do list with 10 items checked off before 8 a.m. Others don’t even have the opportunity to exercise in the morning because of early workdays, busy schedules, or family duties. 

Hitting the gym in the morning certainly has its benefits, but exercising at night can offer just as many perks if it’s right for your schedule. Nighttime workouts certainly aren’t for everyone, but that’s what’s so special about fitness—nothing is one-size-fits-all. If you’ve been pondering a nighttime workout routine, this guide will help you find out if it’s right for you. 

First Things First: Exercising at Night Doesn’t Ruin Sleep

Conventional wisdom would have everyone believe that exercising in the evening or at night abolishes any chance of a healthy sleep cycle. This is simply not so. The advice to avoid nighttime workouts stems from the fact that exercise increases your core body temperature, elevates your heart rate, and prompts your body to release stimulating hormones like epinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol. 

While those changes do indeed occur when you exercise, there’s very little proof that they can prevent you from getting a good night’s rest. Research suggests that late-night exercise has hardly any effect at all on your sleep quality or duration, and for some people, a nighttime sweat session can actually improve both. Plus, certain types of exercise—such as gentle yoga and stretching, as well as steady-state aerobic exercise—are known to help people fall asleep faster and sleep better throughout the night. 

Benefits of Working Out at Night

Now that the myth-busting is out of the way, we can focus on the benefits of exercising at night. Besides the obvious perks of exercise—weight management, strength, endurance, lowered disease risk, and so much more—nighttime workouts may have their own unique collection of advantages. 

Improve Workout Performance

As it turns out, working out in the evening hours may actually help you run faster, lift more weight, or improve your endurance more than morning exercise can. The theory behind this phenomenon is that your body isn’t as primed or prepared to exercise in the early morning as it may be in the evening. One 2013 study in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism found that people who exercise in the evening will work out up to 20 percent harder than people who exercise in the morning. 

A 2013 review of studies in the journal Integrative Medicine Research found that a group of evening exercisers improved their work capacity more than a group of morning exercisers at the end of a five-week, intense training cycle. The review also reveals that grip strength, peak power, and other strength measures were higher during evening times than morning times in active men. 

Reduce Your Risk of Injury

Though the evidence is limited and mainly anecdotal, some research suggests that your risk of getting injured while exercising decreases when you work out in the afternoon or evening hours. In the early morning, you may not be as alert yet, which can increase your risk of tripping or falling, dropping equipment, or making other mistakes. 

There are physiological reasons you might get injured during morning workouts, too, such as:

  • Your body temperature is cooler in the morning and it takes longer to prepare for exercise
  • Your muscles and joints are stiff from sleep
  • You may have a low fuel supply if you didn’t eat a large dinner or morning snack
  • Your circadian rhythm may not sync well to morning workouts, which can throw you off in many ways

Relieve Stress

Exercising can serve as a helpful stress-relief tool no matter what time of day you do it, but exercising at night might be particularly advantageous. Hitting the gym in the evening hours gives you a chance to disconnect after spending hours responding to emails, flitting from meeting to meeting, fulfilling family obligations, and looking at your phone. 

A nighttime workout can give you a surge of endorphins—those feel-good chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin—right before you hit the hay. This may be helpful for people who have trouble shaking off the day’s worries and winding down at night. Plus, exercise is known to make people more resilient to future stress, so a nighttime exercise habit could potentially set you up for better mornings.

More Room and Equipment

Most gyms and fitness studios have the same rush hours: about 5 to 6 a.m. and about 5 to 8 p.m. Opting to work out later than 8 p.m. may give you access to more tools, equipment, and space—thus reducing your chance of plateauing or getting bored. 

You won’t have to fight for popular equipment, either. No more waiting around for someone to finish up with the squat rack or asking other gym-goers if you can hop in with them to alternate sets. 

End-of-Day Alone Time

If you feel like you could use some more alone time on a regular basis, exercising at night could provide an opportunity for that. For many people, the gym is truly an escape—it’s the one place and the one time each day they can focus fully on themselves and do something for self-improvement. 

Exercising at night compounds that by providing more space for oneself. When you exercise at night, it’s unlikely that you’ll have to battle crowds, fight for a pair of dumbbells, or run into an old friend or colleague who wants to chat for 20 minutes. At night, exercise time is 100 percent your time. The early morning also provides this opportunity, but for those who have early starts to their days or just don’t like to wake up before the sun, a late-night workout is your best bet for alone time. 

Replace Bad Habits

Many people fill their evenings with habits that aren’t necessarily healthy—from munching on snacks, vegging out in front of the TV, or spending hours scrolling through various social media apps, we could all stand to replace some evening habits with physical activity. 

You don’t have to stop indulging in those things completely or forever, but nighttime workouts can be a double whammy for better health: Not only will you spend less time on a bad habit, but you’ll forge a new, healthy habit at the same time.

Potential Pitfalls of Working Out at Night

Despite the many benefits of exercising at night, there are caveats to consider, too. Exercising at night isn’t right for everyone for these reasons. 

Might Interfere With Sleep for Some People

I know, I know: I busted the myth that exercising at night interferes with sleep. The fact of the matter is that everyone reacts differently to nighttime exercise. While research suggests that exercising at night does not mess with your ZZZs, it’s up to you to find out how it affects you individually. 

If you currently exercise at night and you have trouble falling asleep, it’s worth trying to shift your workout to an earlier time. You don’t necessarily have to pick up a morning workout habit, but early evening instead of late evening can make a big difference. You should also experiment with different types of exercise at night—a sweaty, intense HIIT session might keep you amped up for hours, whereas a moderately paced walk might help you snooze better. 

No Group Classes

If you enjoy exercising with a community or love the motivation of an in-person instructor, exercising at night might present challenges on that front. Not many gyms have group fitness classes late at night, although some boutique studios may run classes as late as 10 or 11 p.m.

If the instructor is what you’re missing, you can always stream workouts on your phone while you hit the gym—you can also stream at home if you prefer home workouts. But if you’re craving the community aspect of group classes, that’s not something you can really replicate on your own (you could always enlist a fellow night owl, though!).

Problems With Consistency

Saving your workout for the evening or night hours might present problems for people who typically find themselves very tired at the end of the day. If, when you finish working for the day, all you want to do is plop onto your couch with some movie-style popcorn and a good reality TV show, nighttime workouts might not be right for you. 

If you can wake up and get in an early workout, you can truly savor those evening hours without compromising your physical fitness (and without any guilt about skipping a workout). I, for one, know that I won’t work out after 4 p.m. My days run smoother when I exercise first thing in the morning, but I can still squeeze in a workout midday or in the early afternoon. After a long workday, though, a sweat session is out of the question for me. 

Because I know this about myself, I’m able to motivate myself in the mornings (on most days, I’m only human) and avoid the dreaded post-workday battle with myself. 

Stay Safe While Exercising at Night

If you plan to exercise at night, take extra precautions to ensure your safety. If you're running, biking, or walking outside, wear a reflective vest, headlamp, or other lighted gear.

If you're working out at the gym, make sure to park your car in a well-lit area close to the entrance of the facility so you don't have to walk far during the late hours. Also, keep your cell phone charged so you can call someone in case of an emergency and consider carrying a whistle or mace to protect yourself.

A Word From Verywell

Always remember one important thing when it comes to fitness routines: The very best fitness routine is the one that works for you. A good fitness routine is one you can stick to; it’s one you thoroughly enjoy; it’s one that encourages you to push your limits but doesn’t invite overtraining. 

A good fitness routine, in short, is one that propels you toward your goals, whether your goal is weight loss, better sleep, building muscle, boosting your mood, fighting off disease, or simply feeling better overall. 

It’s certainly worth experimenting with different times of day to get the most out of your workouts. If you’re currently feeling run-down with your routine, try shifting your schedule around—of course, that’s not possible for everyone, but if you have the leeway, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised with a faster mile or a heavier squat. 

10 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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Additional Reading

By Amanda Capritto, ACE-CPT, INHC
Amanda Capritto, ACE-CPT, INHC, is an advocate for simple health and wellness. She writes about nutrition, exercise and overall well-being.