What's the Best Time of Day to Run?

Two young men and a young woman running on a path with late afternoon backlighting.
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Is it true that runners get more out of their runs if they run in the morning instead of evening? What's the ideal time of day to run?

The best time of day to run is a long-standing debate among runners and exercise experts.

Time is of the Essence

Research indicates that the optimal time to exercise is when your body temperature is at its highest, which, for most people is during the late afternoon, between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. Other studies do confirm that exercisers perform better on physical performance tests, including aerobic capacity, endurance, reaction time, and strength between 4 and 7 p.m.

But before you start changing your running routine to always run in the late afternoon/early evening, keep in mind that there are also benefits to running in the morning.

Running in the morning may help keep you motivated to run. Research shows that morning exercisers are more consistent with their workout regimens than those who work out in the afternoon or evening. Early morning is also the coolest part of the day during warmer months, so you'll be more safe and comfortable if you run in the morning when it's hot.

Adapting to Change

And, although you may have a natural tendency to run better in the late afternoon or evening, some research indicates that your body can adapt to the time of day that you normally train. This is another plus for those who prefer to run in the morning, since most races are run in the morning. So, if you're training for a race, do some of your runs, especially long runs, in the a.m. so your body gets used to running at that time. You'll also get accustomed to the routine of wake up, drink, eat, use the bathroom, run--so it will feel like second nature on race day.

Think of your runs as dress rehearsals for the real race.

If you usually run in the morning, you'll also sleep better. A study found that morning exercise leads to better sleep quality than afternoon or evening exercise.

Of course, while there seems to be more evidence indicating that morning running is better than running in the afternoon or evening, the bottom line is that some running is better than no running at all.

Run when it works best for your schedule because no matter what time of day you run, you'll still get all the great benefits of running.


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