Is There a Best Time to Exercise?

Last updated April 16, 2024

Your schedule is bananas and the last thing you want to worry about when you have free time is squeezing a workout into your daily schedule, right?

Studies have shown, though, that regular exercise does wonders for your mental health and emotional well-being. Studies also reveal that certain dayparts are better than others. Is science right?

We asked some of our fitness gurus to weigh in on the best time to exercise. Here are their recommendations. Spoiler alert: it depends. 

Best Time to Exercise: The Ranch Malibu

Vinny Muscarella, Fitness Trainer

Any time you can find a half-hour to an hour to put aside for yourself is the right time. The key to fitness and health is consistency. The more you do it, the easier it becomes and the better your results will be. 

Something that motivates me is competition. To not overwhelm my mind with the stress and anxiety of the competition “will I do well, have I done enough to perform, etc.,” I program small goals to achieve throughout the year. Knowing that every goal I check off leaves me one step closer to my main goal, competition. 

For others, motivation may come in the form of wanting to lose any excess weight you may have put on, look better for an upcoming vacation or simply feel healthier in your day-to-day life.  Whatever your goal may be, I advise you to create a program with a professional trainer that builds off of small goals to reach your larger goal. 

The accountability of a trainer helps, especially on those days you really don’t want to be in the gym. The sense of accomplishment in knowing that every time you reach a small goal, you’re one step closer to your main goal, is one of the best ways to motivate yourself! 

Best Time to Exercise: Hilton Head Health

David Chesworth, Program Director 

The best time to exercise is the time that you are most likely to do it! Something is truly better than nothing and it doesn’t matter when you do it. 

Health is not an all-or-nothing venture. There are degrees of health and moving more is a great way to move that needle. Additionally, sometimes the best way to plan exercise is NOT by focusing on one large block of time, rather, to find multiple small chunks of time throughout the day. Small, frequent bouts of activity can be just as beneficial as one long exercise session.

The common theme of our messaging at Hilton Head Health is “focus on progress, NOT perfection.” Celebrate the concept of progress and your journey toward perfection will be an exciting adventure in itself. 

Something I often say to myself when I don’t feel like doing something is “time will pass whether I do this or not.” For whatever reason, this mantra has an internal meaning to me that moves me into action. A common pitfall is thinking that motivation is only a feeling. But the reality is that motivation is also an action. And actions are essential to fuel the feeling.

Best Time to Exercise: The Retreat Costa Rica

Diana Stobo, Owner and Founder 

The perfect time to exercise is personal and depends on each body’s constitution. While morning workouts on an empty stomach tend to burn more fat, an afternoon workout may burn more calories. Most important is that there is consistency as exercise is cumulative.   

Exercise should be fun. It is the part of the day that you move your body and express excess energy or let off steam. In order to motivate myself, I play fun and inspiring music, I choose exercises that fit my mood and I allow myself to increase or decrease intensity depending on that mood.  

Best Time to Exercise: The Lodge at Woodloch

Cindy Wasilewski, Fitness Manager 

We always tell our guests that the best time to exercise is whenever they feel the most energized. For some people, it’s the morning.  For some people, it’s the afternoon.  

I prefer the evening because it re-energizes me after a long day and it provides a great outlet for any stressors of the day. This philosophy helps to make it more realistic to become a lifestyle instead of a chore. 

While some recommendations will suggest morning exercise, it isn’t always realistic based on schedules and responsibilities. By opening it up to when each individual feels the most energized and motivated, it opens up more possibilities and hopefully makes regular exercise a reality.

Best Time to Exercise: Red Mountain Resort

Kim Watters, Fitness Manager 

Figuring out the time of day that your body responds best to exercise can be complicated as there are loads of variables to take into account—like when your body burns the most calories, when your body performs at its peak and when you are motivated to put in the effort. 

But these variables can change from day to day depending on how you sleep, what you eat and drink and how much stress you are dealing with.

So I’d say the perfect time to exercise is the time that fits best into your schedule that day. Choose a time when you will actually go and do the work. 

Make little tweaks to your workout schedule as needed and try out different times of the day. You won’t know what works until you try. The point is to move your body every day.

Here are some ways I motivate myself to keep moving:

Get a partner: When I can commit to an exercise buddy I’m less likely to let them down or to let myself down. I have buddies that like to work out in the evening and some like to work out in the morning and I have some that will work out on a Saturday afternoon with me.

Get outside: I live close to Red Mountain Resort and am fortunate to be surrounded by the beauty of the red cliffs, black lava rocks and blue skies. Just getting outside inspires me to go for a hike or a simple walk around the neighborhood.

Group class: Group fitness classes are by nature inspiring; the music is upbeat, the shared energy from the group is uplifting and hard work as a group can truly build community.

Commit to ten minutes: On the days I’m busy or find myself making excuses, I move my body for ten minutes. Whatever I can get myself to do for ten minutes usually works. Sometimes it’s turning on music and dancing around the house, other times it’s getting in the pool or sometimes it’s a simple walk or jog.  

Best Time to Exercise: Mountain Trek

Kristy Shields, Kinesiologist

Ideally, the best time to work out is anytime that fits into your schedule. Some people prefer to work out after waking up and for others, they may feel that afternoon or evening works best. 

Studies have shown that cardio can be most effective in the morning and that our bodies are at their optimal strength in the afternoon, so perhaps do your weight routine then. In years of working with various clients, getting the workout done after work or in the evening is usually more difficult as people tend to be winding down from their busy days. 

Try to wake a little earlier and get a workout done before you start your day—this can be a great way to establish a routine. 

One important piece of advice to keep you motivated when starting a fitness routine is to remember to meet yourself where you are at. If you have been inactive for a period of time, perhaps going out and running 10 miles or attacking an intense HIIT workout would not be the best option. 

Start with options that are attainable and invigorating, and make a point of creating a regular fitness routine so that this habit becomes part of your lifestyle.

The Verdict

What’s the best time to exercise, then? The best time to exercise is whenever is best for you, your schedule and your motivation level. 

To problem solve what time might be best, start by asking yourself these questions:

  1. What time of day do I tend to have the most energy?
  2. What time of day do I tend to have the least distractions?
  3. Am I an evening person or a morning person?
  4. Which days of the week would be impossible for me to exercise?
  5. What time of day would be impossible for me to exercise?
  6. When can I realistically put time in my calendar to dedicate time for exercise?

One thing is clear. Working out is important no matter the time of day.

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