Exercising regularly can help you lose weight, reduce stress, improve sleep, increase strength, boost metabolism—the benefits are endless. When it comes to the best time of day to exercise, it really depends on you and your lifestyle. If you’re not a morning person, getting out of bed at 6 a.m. for a workout might be tricky, especially on a regular basis. If you try to force yourself, you may quit exercising altogether.
So for non-morning people, nighttime truly may be the best time for a workout. But should you really be exercising at night? Of course, there are pros and cons to consider. Keep reading to see if working out at night is a good idea for you.
The benefits of working out at night
1. Stress reduction
Had a stressful day? Sweat it out! Based on our circadian rhythm, working out at night is one of the best ways to process daytime’s negative energy and get ready for a mindful, calm evening. When you exercise, your brain releases a flood of the feel-good chemicals known as endorphins, along with serotonin to help stabilize mood and promote feelings of well-being.
Sweat time can also act as s nice transition between work mode and home mode, helping you to stay present in the evening with your family and friends.
2. Improved diet
Most people prefer exercising on a relatively empty stomach, so you might find yourself choosing light, easy-to-digest foods instead of sugary, heavy or fried items before a nighttime workout. Then, post-workout, you’re more likely to consume something healthy that will aid in your recovery and performance.
3. Longer exercise time
Without having to worry about rushing to get your day started, or returning to work in the middle of the day, a nighttime workout may encourage you to exercise for a longer period of time. You can take your time with equipment, add in extra minutes on the treadmill or cool down without having to continually watch the clock.
This results in extra warm-up time, more reps, more miles, longer recovery breaks between sets, and of course, more post-workout stretching.
4. Improved sleep
Believe it or not, exercising—the proper way—before bedtime doesn’t inherently ruin sleep. In fact, you may find it easier to fall and stay asleep after a good workout.
Research reported by the National Library of Medicine revealed that subjects who exercised for 35 minutes slept just as well on “exercise nights” as they did on “non-exercise nights.” The study suggested that exercise aids in sleep quality, helping you to sleep deeper and longer.
Drawbacks of working out at night
Exercising at night is not without drawbacks. Here are a few things to pay attention to.
1. Lifestyle obstacles
Unlike exercising first thing in the morning, nighttime sessions pose the risk that obstacles will get in your way. Whether it’s the kids’ homework or a night out with friends, distractions are inevitable in the evening.
What’s more, you may simply not feel up to it after a long day at work. This makes it easier to choose an evening of mindless TV watching on the couch instead of getting up and moving.
2. Hard exercise can compromise sleep
While mild to moderate exercise may improve sleep, performing more intense workouts (such as extreme MMA sessions, for example) less than an hour before hitting the hay can negatively impact sleep quality. Research suggests that vigorous exercise at night might significantly modify sleep architecture, especially in non-trained athletes.
As a general rule, you should always focus on less rigorous workouts, like mild weight lifting or jogging, at night. Try to schedule your high-intensity sessions for weekends.
3. Safety is a concern
If you’re planning to exercise outdoors at night, safety is the biggest issue. Nighttime exercise comes with the risk of minimal visibility, especially when running on streets instead of a well-lit track.
Additionally, thanks to poor visibility, you might also trip, fall down and injure yourself. Not to mention you could also be approached by strangers or even assaulted. Always remember to check your shoes, bring a flashlight or wear a headlamp and keep some pepper spray in your pocket (just in case). Safety first!
Tips for working out at night
Interested in giving evening workouts a try? Good for you! Here are a few practical tips to help you get the most out of your sessions.
Keep it light
When exercising at night, it’s best to perform low to moderate-intensity activity. As mentioned previously, intense cardio results in increased release of endorphins and may interfere with your sleep quality. Aim for moderate workouts to fall asleep faster and rest better.
The earlier, the better, when it comes to nighttime workouts; but all in all, try to complete your session at least one hour before bedtime. If possible, complete your workout at least 90 minutes before sleep so you can have enough time for a light post-workout meal and a shower.
Cool down properly
Just as it’s important to start every workout with a warm-up, you also should prioritize a proper cool down following exercise. This is especially true when working out at night as you’ll need to make your body transition back to normal functioning as soon as possible.
Anything that brings down your heart rate is ideal. Try walking, static stretching and foam rolling. This also helps protect you against injury.
Exercise with a partner
It’s true that there’s strength in numbers. By working out with a friend, you’ll have an extra set of eyes and ears on the lookout for danger, which is especially helpful if you’re outdoors. A running buddy will also help keep you on track with your exercise schedule. They can help keep you motivated and accountable.
Let someone know your plans
Let your roommate, partner, friend or neighbor know where you’re going as well as what time they should hear back from you. Once you’re home, touch base and let them know you’re safe and sound.
Use the right gear
If you’ll be exercising outdoors, the key is to stay visible. As a rule, wear neon or bright-colored clothing or light-reflection fabrics that increase your visibility—the more reflective, the better.
Follow your instincts
If a given route, person, or situation doesn’t feel right for any reason, trust that feeling and do your best change the plan. Turn a corner or run in the opposite direction, for example. Never disregard your gut feelings — they serve an important purpose.
Last but not least, you should never skimp on sleep because of a workout. That’s actually where nighttime exercise may do more harm than good. Messing with your sleep quality will negatively impact your recovery, muscle repair, performance and overall health.
In general, only exercise at night if you can manage at least seven hours of sleep afterward. Can’t pull it off? You’re better sleeping it off.
The key to a successful exercise program is making a commitment you can keep! If logging your miles or getting in your reps when it’s dark helps you to meet your fitness goals, don’t hesitate to do it. Nighttime exercise offers these benefits and more.