The Best Time of Day to Walk and Exercise

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Walking and being generally physically active comes with many benefits no matter when you choose to lace up your shoes. However, there are some reasons you may which to choose to exercise during different times of the day. Explore the unique benefits and potential drawbacks of exercising in the morning, afternoon, and evening.

Morning Exercise

Morning workouts may fit into your schedule if you're an early riser. But night owls might struggle with an early fitness session.

Benefits of Morning Exercise

There are many benefits to getting in your walks or workouts in the morning. For instance, a study published in 2012 found reduced attraction to photos of food after a 45-minute brisk morning walk and more activity throughout the rest of the day. And another study published in 2013 found that male cyclists had better endurance capacity in the morning than evenings.

Exercising in the morning may help you feel more energized, increasing your blood flow and waking up the nervous system. Once you get used to working out in the morning, it can be habit-forming since you start each day the same way, building a routine.

If you exercise outdoors, the air can be cooler and less polluted in the morning, boosting the positive effects of getting into green space.

Drawbacks of Morning Exercise

Safety can be a concern if you need to walk before the sun rises. When days are shorter, it may be too dark to walk safely very early in the morning. And there are other drawbacks to walking in the morning.

Body temperature is at its lowest one to three hours before awakening, making the morning a time of naturally lower energy and blood flow. Cold, stiff muscles may be more prone to injury. To combat this, be sure to warm-up well before doing a higher speed workout, and do gentle stretching.

Getting active in the morning may help you form a consistent exercise habit, but be sure to warm up thoroughly as the body may be more stiff and fatigued, reducing performance or possibly increasing the risk of injury.

Lunchtime Exercise

Many people break up the work day with movement away from their workspace. But others feel that it's a hassle to change in and out of workout apparel.

Benefits of Mid-Day Exercise

If you have a sedentary job, it can do your body a lot of good to break up the workday with exercise. It's also a great time to socialize with walking partners and take time away from sitting at your desk. Consider these other benefits to adding a walk to the middle of your day.

A brisk walk can improve blood flow to the brain, so you may be sharper in the afternoon when you return to work. If you usually experience a mid-day slump, this could be especially beneficial for you. Another plus is that walking or exercise provides stress relief from work, school, or home,

Forming a habit of walking at lunch during your break can help build a consistent routine. Since you are already in the habit of taking a lunch break, adding a walk or some other form of physical activity during this time can build on that existing routine.

Drawbacks of Mid-Day Exercise

Although taking an active break from work can be a boost to the rest of your day, there are some aspects that make mid-day exercise potentially more challenging. Changing into exercise clothes (or at least shoes) and out of sweaty clothes may not work for some people, for instance.

Not everyone has a consistent lunch break period either. If your lunch break is unpredictable you may not be able to walk a full 30 to 60 minutes for a full workout. If you are a stay-at-home parent or caregiver, you may not be able to make time to exercise during this busy time of day when demands for lunch or naps are in full force.

Research published in 2012 shows that lung function is worse after noon in people with COPD. For an easy walk, a healthy person may not notice the difference. But for a vigorous workout or for those with lung problems, the 15% to 20% difference may be felt.

Late Afternoon Exercise

If you regularly have a block of free time in the late afternoon, this might be a smart time to schedule exercise. But it doesn't work for everyone.

Benefits of Late Afternoon Exercise

Research has suggested that the afternoon is the best time to exercise for both performance and for building muscle. This includes resistance and endurance-type training.

Afternoon exercise may help regulate the amount of food you feel like eating for dinner. Research shows that exercise can suppress appetite for a time, although overall calorie intake is usually not affected.

The afternoon is when you have the lowest perceived exertion of the day: You can exert yourself more while feeling it less, so you may be able to work out harder or faster in the afternoon.

As well, you can exercise for stress relief after a day at work, school, or home. Choose a form of exercise that helps you wind down. This could be walking, yoga, a run, boxing, or any other form of movement you enjoy.

Drawbacks of Late Afternoon Exercise

Many people feel an energy slump in the late afternoon. And there are other reasons that this time slot may not be the best time to walk. For instance, if you use the gym for exercise or equipment such as the treadmill, it may be crowded and hard to get the workout you want.

As well, commitments and responsibilities can mount through the day; You may find that things keep coming up that force you to work late or tempt you to socialize rather than exercise. After a day of work and focus, you may feel less inclined to put effort into a workout.

If late afternoon is the best time in your schedule to exercise but you feel less energized, try to include a healthy snack about 30 minutes before you intend to work out and change into your fitness clothing. Whether you end up exercising or not, you'll start to build a routine that could lead to an exercise habit forming. Even one day per week to start is a step toward success.

Evening Exercise

You may be able to schedule your exercise sessions for the evening hours more easily than at other times of the day. There are benefits and drawbacks to evening exercise to consider.

Benefits of Evening Exercise

An evening workout can be just the thing you need to destress after a hard workday. And there are other benefits.

Evening exercise can help curb nighttime snacking by diverting your energy and boredom to movement instead. As well, exercise can blunt appetite for a time, which may let any food cravings or desire to snack pass. Of course, if you are hungry, you may want to eat something, especially if you perform intense exercise.

Post-dinner evening exercise can be an excellent time to connect with family with healthy activity. Building a family habit of a post-dinner walk can encourage everyone to add some movement to their day. What's more, evening exercise could help everyone get better sleep.

Drawbacks of Evening Exercise

At dark times of the year, it may not be as safe to walk outside. If you choose this time to walk, be sure to wear reflective gear when walking outdoors.

A full day's worth of new crises and distractions can keep you from getting a consistent workout. If you discover sleeping problems, you need to schedule your workout earlier or simply walk at a low-moderate intensity.

A Word From Verywell

Walking can only do you good if you do it. Experts agree—it is not the time of day that matters as much as finding the time you can set aside consistently for your workouts. The best time to walk is the time that will fit best into your schedule so you can do it consistently. Choose a time of day that makes building a habit more likely, and work toward walking or exercising several days a week. It's ok to start with just one day and build from there.

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