A physiologist says working out in the evening has some surprising benefits over the morning -- and she put it to the test

Photo by energepic.com from PexelsPeople often associate early morning exercise with success, but is that the best time of day to workout to see results?
  • Many people associate early morning exercise with success.
  • But if you’re not a morning person, making it to the gym first thing can feel like an impossible task.
  • A physiologist believes that working out in the evening has some surprising benefits.
  • She claims you are up to 30% stronger in the evenings compared to mornings, which can enhance your performance.

There’s something incredibly smug about those people who get up at the crack of dawn and fit an hour’s workout in all before their almond latte.

Most CEOs will tell you that they squeeze an early workout into their morning routine, and as a result many of us naturally associate morning exercise with success.

Working out first thing will kick-start your metabolism, wake your body and mind, and help you to focus throughout the day, they say.

It all sounds great, but for those of us who aren’t “morning people,” making that 7 a.m. class often feels like an impossible task.

However, while according to one physiologist the time of day you work out does impact your performance and results, that time isn’t necessarily the morning.

Presenter Anna Richardson asked the question of what time of day is best for a workout in the latest episode of Channel 4’s How to get Fit Fast show.

She said that some experts believe the right time to exercise is all relative and dependent upon your own individual body clock, or “chronotype,” which determines whether or not you’re a so-called “morning person.”

However, even if you are one of these people, there are often plenty of reasons why training first thing is not logistically possible, she pointed out.

The good news for night owls is that some evidence suggests that training in the morning may not be superior to the evening when measuring performance.

‘Muscles are up to 30% stronger in the evening’

Dr Gladys Pearson, a physiologist who studies muscles at Manchester Metropolitan University, is convinced that working out in the evening has a much bigger impact on your body than exercising at any other time of day, because the evening is when you are stronger.

Pearson’s research suggests working out in the evenings can increase your physical capacity by between 8-30%. One of the reasons for this, she says, is that your muscles are warmer then.

Putting the theory to the test

Using trackers, Pearson’s team compared the performance of three participants – including Richardson – jumping vertically on the spot in the morning and in the early evening.

And, while it was a certainly a small experiment, the results were rather surprising.

All three saw their performance enhanced in the evening. The smallest difference was seen in participant Beth’s jumps, whose performance improved by 1.8% in the evening. Meanwhile, Richardson jumped 1.23 cm higher – equivalent to a 7.7% improvement in terms of performance – and Declan increased his jump height by 6 cm, an increase of 16.3%.

Pearson said that she believes the increased power and enhanced jumping capacity is not just down to warmer muscles, but that hormones are also playing a part in this.

“In the morning the hormones are more encouraging of breaking down the muscle, and in the evening it’s the opposite,” Pearson said, confirming to Richardson that you’ll get better results in the evening, when your hormones are in muscle-building mode.

There’s no doubt that there are benefits to starting your day with physical activity – not to mention the convenience of getting it out of the way early on – but the next time you miss that early morning class, don’t beat yourself up too hard – you may even train harder later in the day.

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