Exercise offers positive effects but you may be unsure about the optimal timing. Doing it in the morning can offer some amazing benefits.
Some of these benefits have to do with the unique timings of certain human hormones. Others have to do with personal preferences.
Keep in mind that working out in the evening also still offers advantages. While the points below can help you get motivated to exercise early, don’t let them stop you from moving later in the day.
1. Fewer things that can mess up your routine
A big part of staying consistent with an exercise routine is finding a time of the day when you will (most often) be able to work out.
Since most people already have a busy life, this can feel (and be) really challenging. However, some periods of the day tend to be busier and more susceptible to unexpected schedule changes.
For most people, the morning is the most predictable of their day and in turn, the time of the day when it is easiest to implement a new habit.
The things that need to be done before going to work or school besides exercise tend to be the same and come down to waking up, getting you and possibly kids ready to leave, and eating.
After work or school, things like random visits from friends, working overtime, traffic jams, weekend plans, grocery shopping, etc. could mess up your workout plans.
2. It can help you start focused and productive
Most people will need at least some time to wake up and get in motion after a night of sleep.
While working out in the morning will likely not completely remove this start-up time, it could reduce how long it takes to get going.
Exercising starts a variety of internal processes with in turn, secondary effects on things like hormone levels, muscle mass, mental process, etc. Some of these effects include more focus on productivity.
One study divided 67 overweight people with normal cognitive function into three groups. The first group sat for 8 hours. The second group sat for 1 hour, walked for 30 minutes, and then sat again for 6.5 hours.
The third group sat for 1 hour, walked for 30 minutes, and then walked for 3 minutes every 30 minutes of sitting (for 6.5 hours).
They measured that the participants in the groups who walked performed significantly better on cognitive tests than the sitting-only group (1).
On top of that, exercise gets your heart beating faster, raises cortisol (the so-called stress hormone), and raises your body temperature. These things are generally considered to wake you up and increase focus.
The benefit of exercising in the morning is that you get these focus improvements at a time when you actually want them.
They can help you perform better at work, study better, be more skillful in solving your kids’ morning problems, and be the cheerful partner your significant other desires in the morning.
3. Can help you get your morning sunlight
Exercise is not the only thing that sets a variety of important processes in motion. The human body has a variety of circadian clocks.
In simpler words, circadian clocks are cycles of more or less 24 hours that influence things like what hormones get released and when.
Keeping your circadian clocks aligned with your daily rhythms can improve your health, your sleep, and your overall experience of the day.
Something that helps align your circadian clocks is being exposed to sunlight throughout the day (to safe extents). Especially in the morning 1 hour after you wake up (2).
Being outside basically helps your body “realize” that the 24-hour clock needs to start through a variety of processes. This helps with things like sleeping better at night.
One of the benefits of working out in the morning is that you can combine the two healthy habits of light exposure and exercise.
This can help you save some time compared to doing the two separately.
4. Chance to do your exercise later in the day anyway
While one of the goals of choosing the morning for your exercise routine is to make it easier to stay consistent things don’t always go according to plan.
However, if your morning plans get messed up, you still have the rest of the day to reschedule your most important activities like exercise.
With afternoon or evening workout routines, any last-minute changes in plans would be more likely to result in skipping your sessions for the day.
5. Improves your mood
Not everyone is aware of it but the physical health of the human body has a big influence on the mood and thoughts of the individual.
Similar to focus, you would also get these mood improvements by working out in the evening. One study found that morning and evening exercise were similarly effective for reducing depressive symptoms (6).
However, in the morning, the more short-term mental effects come at a time when many people need it the most.
Besides that, it could be that the positive mood effects last 3 hours but 2 hours after an evening workout you have to go to sleep. In that case, you may consciously experience the mood upsides for longer if you train in the morning.
6. Sets the right tone for the day
There is a human instinct called the consistency bias. This means that we have a tendency to believe and act according to how we did in the past.
While you can override this instinct with effort, you can also use the consistency bias in a positive way.
By starting your day with something that may feel challenging but is ultimately good for you, you set the right tone for the day.
This could make it easier to implement other healthy choices and habits throughout your day.
7. You may like it more
The choice between morning exercise and evening exercise is not always clear.
Part of the reason for this is that personal schedules vary. Another similar big cause is that different people may simply prefer different times.
If you really like working out in the morning, this could be the time of the day when it is easiest to stick to the exercise plan you’ve created.
8. Can lower the blood sugar spike from breakfast
Raising your blood sugar can even be good for certain situations but most people will benefit from avoiding big spikes in terms of health and longevity.
A review of studies concluded that exercising after a meal improves glycemic response (7).
For example, one study the review looked at measured a 19% lower insulin response when exercising before breakfast and a 24% lower insulin response when exercising after breakfast in overweight men (8).
Additionally, another study suggests that exercise before breakfast can help reduce blood sugar spikes from the meal if the movements are intense enough (9).
Things like running fast, weighted vest exercises, cycling at a high intensity, resistance bands, or lifting weights can help you get to the desired intensity levels.
Something to note is that these effects also seem to apply to meals later in the day. If you can time these around your dinner (or lunch), they could benefit you in a similar way.
9. Cleaner progress data
Tracking your workouts can help you adapt them for optimal progress, motivate you to keep going, and simply be fun to look at.
While you still have some variance because of sleep, working out in the morning keeps this data just a bit cleaner and representative of your actual progress in fitness levels.
If you work out in the afternoon or evening and you have to move heavy things or cover a lot of distance by cycle or foot, your muscles will not be in the optimal state to perform.
Something important to note is that activities that are challenging enough to mess with workouts are not that common for most people.
Walking 10 minutes more than your regular daily habits will generally not influence your workouts.
10. Could make your diet more pleasant
Anyone who has tried to lose weight can tell that this goal is not only a case of creating the right plans for working out, nutrition, and sleep. You also have to be able to stick to these plans to get the exercise benefits.
Something important to note is that this study did not find a difference in energy or macronutrient intake between the groups.
This benefit definitely requires more research but a chance of reducing the intensity of thoughts about food could be enough of a motivation to move more in the morning.
11. Easier to create a habit loop
Humans (and many other animals) are creatures of habit. A lot of your daily activities are done without thinking and in certain sequences. You can call these sequences habit loops.
Habit loops typically start with a “trigger” that leads to a certain action, and then a reward (physical or mental).
The way you create a habit loop and make it stronger is by always doing a certain thing after a certain trigger.
Because you likely have fewer things going on in the morning, it becomes easier to create a certain sequence and strengthen this to the point where you don’t have to convince yourself to work out. You just do it.
For example, you can make waking up and then exercise your habit loop.
Later in the day, it may be harder to find a good trigger to start your workout and stick to the plan.
Since staying consistent with an exercise routine can be challenging, this is a powerful benefit of morning workouts.
12. Can offer more comfortable temperatures
This next benefit mostly applies to workouts in warmer locations and/or in the summer.
Early in the day, temperatures are milder compared to the afternoon and evening.
Scheduling your training earlier in the day allows you to train at temperatures that feel more comfortable and allow you to work out for longer before you get overheated.
13. You may have more willpower in the morning
There currently seems to be no research consensus on the subject but many people feel that their willpower depletes throughout the day.
The ultimate goal is making exercise a habit but initially, you may need to use willpower to get yourself going.
If you feel like you can do this a lot more successfully earlier in the day, it may be worth scheduling your workouts in the morning.