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Sunrise, sunset or midnight — what’s the best time to exercise?

Sunrise, sunset or midnight — what’s the best time to exercise?

Is there a perfect time to exercise? That depends on your health, daily schedule and the type of exercises you plan to do
What's the best time to exercise? The key is to exercise daily and maintain a consistent routine be it any time during the day.
There are unique benefits that come with exercising at a specific time — be it morning, evening, night or at one’s convenience during the daytime. Photo by Anantha Subramanyam K/Happiest Health

Some prefer walking or jogging before sunrise, while others spread their yoga mats to the view of the rising or setting sun. Many rope in friends and book a late-night game of badminton or five-a-side football. Then there are the 24-hour gyms for those who prefer or are forced to burn the midnight oil for fitness. From home to gyms, parks and grounds, the best time to exercise varies in relation to one’s professional and personal commitments and routines.

Why morning is a good time to exercise

Getting out of bed early in the morning is not everyone’s cup of tea. But for those who love to do so, incorporating an exercise schedule in the wee hours can bring in some perks.


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“When we wake up, our body is a little slower and stiffer, the muscular system is still waking up. So, mornings are a good time for those who prefer to do low-intensity exercises like yoga and recreational swimming,” says Swetha Shetty, a physiotherapist from Bengaluru.

“The cortisol and dopamine hormones secreted while exercising in the morning help you feel fresh throughout the day. The dopamine gives you the feel-good effect, while cortisol makes you feel bright. According to research, morning exercises are more habit-forming than those done in the second half of the day because life gets in the way later.”

Dushyant Khilnani, a Mumbai-based CrossFit Level-2 trainer and founder of madwod.com, says, “Exercising in the morning increases your physical work capacity and cognitive function. It helps manage stress far more efficiently and stay calm during adversity and anxiety-induced interactions. But if waking up early affects your sleep cycle, then lack of sleep can be counterproductive and affect the recovery process post exercise, which depends largely on a proper seven-hour deep-sleep routine.”

Deepak Sharma, associate professor at Lakshmibai National Institute of Physical Education, Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, also stresses the need for proper sleep if one is to venture out in the morning.

“Exercising in the morning helps me to make the most of the day — the environment is fresh, there’s no mental fatigue and energy stores are at optimum levels,” says Sharma. “But if the individual works late into the night, then it would be difficult. High-intensity exercises in the mornings can create a sense of fatigue throughout the day. More warm-up is also required.”

Are afternoons a good time to exercise?

Consistency is a major shortcoming in doing exercises in the afternoon. It would require planning around your work and meal timings.

“The body temperature rises and falls through the day,” says Shetty. “In the afternoon, your body temperature is higher and the body is warmer compared to the morning. Hence lesser warm-up is required when you exercise. For performance and output, the second half would be ideal. If you are looking at high-intensity exercises for better performance, then exercising six or seven hours after getting up would be better.”

Doing so could burn more calories too.

“Exercising in the afternoon can shift the body clock,” says Sharma. “A study suggests that [compared with] a workout at any other time of the day, a late-afternoon exercise routine helps the body burn more calories and enhances its power output.”

Khilnani adds: “A minimum of one to one-and-a-half hours of gap is needed between your meal and your workout.”

Pros of evening exercise

A tiring day can get in the way of people who exercise in the evenings.

“Human exercise performance is better in the evening — compared with in the morning — as one consumes less oxygen,” says Sharma. “People use less energy for the same intensity of exercise in the evening versus the morning.”

However, the quality of sleep might become a casualty.

“Doing a high-intensity training session in the evening can make it difficult to get sleep,” says Khilnani. “If evening times work best for you, have a proper winding-down routine — like no screentime after exercises — and try some relaxation techniques before going to bed.”

Night and exercises

Lately, we can see people going for late-night walks or hitting the gym. The reasons could be time constraints, odd working hours, etc. Experts say exercising late at night can disrupt the sleep-wake cycle.

“I would advise people not to exercise at nighttime,” says Shetty. “Rest and sleep at night are required because that is the time when our muscles recover. So, exercising late at night would go against the circadian rhythm. Even if you are doing night shifts, there are some daytime hours in which you can try and fit in your exercises.”

Individual preference for exercise

Nobody knows you better than yourself. So, looking at how to stay consistent in your exercise routine while simultaneously enjoying it and reaping the benefits is crucial before deciding what time works for you.

“If you have seen the results, it indicates that the exercise and timings are working and suiting you best. Then consistency would be easy,” says Khilnani.

Food and rest matter, too

“While most people give importance to exercise, they don’t do the same for food and sleep,” says Shetty. “It is necessary to exercise and post that give the muscles some rest because the body requires time to recover. Intake of the right food is also important.”

Hydration is extremely crucial to a proper training and recovery routine. “Stay hydrated throughout the day,” advises Khilnani.


  • Exercising at different times has its pros and cons. But understanding the necessity of exercising and making time for it is more important than the time of the day you are doing it.
  • Consistency can be maintained by figuring out the best time that works for you, depending on your health condition, type of exercise and daily schedule.
  • Along with exercise, the right amount of sleep and nutrition intake is important too.
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