Are you a reluctant exerciser? Do you struggle to find the time, energy, and motivation to fit regular workouts into your busy life? Do you, like me, groan with the force of a thousand surly teenagers whenever someone suggests you simply work out in the morning to get it over with first thing?
If any of that sounds familiar, get ready to groan again because the experts are here to tell you why exercising in the morning might be the secret to getting fit. And I hate to tell you this, but I think they might be right.
“Many sources will say that exercising in the evening is more beneficial. However, I think there’s a big psychological benefit to a morning workout routine,” says Paul Longenecker, RN, MBA, PhD, who teaches in the master of science in allied health program at Otterbein University in Ohio. “If you’re a morning person, it’s easier for you to engage in exercise because you’re generally more pleasant at that time. And if it’s easier for you, then you’re more likely to stick with it.”
This advice makes perfect sense for the early risers among us, but what if you’re not a morning person? Personally, I’m the furthest thing from pleasant before about 10 a.m., and the last thing I want to do when I’m already grumbly and grumpy is wrap myself in spandex and go flop around to music that’s supposed to be motivating but mostly just makes me feel old.
Although I’ve never had much luck sticking with a steady exercise regimen, I’ve always been fully committed to resisting morning workouts ... that is until I actually tried them. Now, here I am, a person who considers exercise as much a part of her morning routine as answering emails, checking the news, and brewing a big kettle of tea.
So what changed? In addition to realizing I felt more energized and awake following my early workouts, I also couldn’t deny that the morning sessions were actually happening, as opposed to all those planned lunchtime and evening workouts that fell victim to excuses and scheduling conflicts and end-of-the-day fatigue.
“For many people, getting their workout done before the rest of their busy day has begun is a great way to hold them to their plan while giving them energy for the rest of the day,” says Jacque Ratliff, an exercise physiologist and an expert with the American Council on Exercise.
The keys here are follow-through and consistency. Although some studies have shown that exercising later in the day might be more beneficial from a physical standpoint, it nevertheless holds true that the morning workouts you engage in will still do you more good than the evening workouts you skip.
“Anytime is a good time to get it in,” says Tanya Norris, a physical trainer, lifestyle coach, and creator of the World Champion Cardio Boxing program. “Just shoot for mornings so you know it will GET DONE!”
Simply put, if you’re the type who treats exercise like a “have to” instead of a “get to,” planning your workouts for the morning means you’ll be less likely to allow other things to get in the way. “If schedules sometimes get too busy during the day and exercise gets squeezed out, then certainly one advantage of doing it first thing in the morning is that it actually happens!” says Doug Miller, PhD, CSCS, an exercise psychologist and wellness director at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.
“There’s been considerable research done on this topic, and the main conclusions are that the health benefits are the same regardless of time of day, the improvements in fitness are the same, and the psychological benefits are the same. So, what’s the most important advice we give? We encourage people to exercise at the time of day that they enjoy exercising so that they will be more inclined to do it regularly.”
Further, Miller points out that aerobic exercise lowers levels of ghrelin, the hormone that turns on our appetite, while simultaneously increasing peptide YY, which turns off our appetite. So working out in the morning could help regulate your food intake throughout the day, a benefit that could make a world of difference for anyone using exercise to help manage weight.
Regardless of your reasons for exercising -- or your excuses for not exercising -- the experts agree on one thing: Those who are the most successful in their fitness goals are those who have found a way to make exercise part of their life: late night, lunchtime, or the crack of dawn.
What’s your favorite time of day to exercise?