The Best Time to Exercise According to Science

In a Nutshell: The best time to exercise is in the evening for enhanced health benefits like improved blood sugar control, fat breakdown, and lower fasting insulin and cholesterol levels.


  • Evening workouts show superior results in blood sugar control and fat breakdown.
  • Evening exercise demonstrates additional health benefits like lower fasting insulin and cholesterol levels, even when diets are controlled.
  • Morning exercise routines are generally easier to turn into a consistent habit, as indicated by a shorter time to habit formation compared to evening routines.

The Science of Timing: Morning vs. Evening Workouts

Is there a scientifically best time to hit the gym or the jogging track? Dr. Sean Hashmi, founder of SELF Principle, a platform dedicated to the latest nutrition and wellness research, delves into this question, revealing insights backed by scientific studies.

A small randomized crossover trial focusing on individuals with type 2 diabetes compared the effects of high-intensity training in the morning and afternoon. 

“They found that the group that exercised in the afternoon had decreased glucose concentrations. So the afternoon group had an advantage for being able to get rid of sugar from the blood,” explains Dr. Hashmi.

In a larger study involving 32 males at risk or with a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, afternoon workouts again showed superior results. 

Dr. Hashmi notes, “The afternoon group had better insulin sensitivity. They had a better fat breakdown and better fasting sugar levels. They even had better exercise performance and lost more fat overall than the morning group.”

Considering Diet: A Factor in Exercise Efficiency

However, not all studies yield uniform results. Dr. Hashmi highlights a study where diets were controlled, showing benefits in both morning and evening exercise groups. 

But the evening group demonstrated “lower fasting insulin, lower insulin after meals, lower sugars overnight or at nighttime, and lower cholesterol floating around in their bloodstreams.”

The Habit Factor: Morning vs. Evening

Despite physiological benefits observed in evening workouts, habit formation presents a different angle. 

Dr. Hashmi refers to a study involving 48 students, stating, “The morning group formed the habit in about one hundred and five days, but the evening group took them one hundred and fifty-four days to form the same habit.” This suggests morning exercise might be more sustainable in the long run.

Long-Term Studies: A Balanced View

Addressing long-term impacts, Dr. Hashmi mentions a 12-week study on sedentary adults. 

Surprisingly, this study found no significant difference between morning and evening exercise regarding long-term blood sugar control. 

”Turns out there wasn’t any difference. So in terms of sugar, whether it was hemoglobin A1c or fasting sugars or postprandial or after meal sugar, there was no statistical difference between morning or evening exercise,” Dr. Hashmi stated.

Final Thoughts: Personalizing Exercise Routines

Concluding his insights, Dr. Hashmi emphasizes, “The best time to exercise is the one you can stick to.”  He advocates for focusing on habits rather than sporadic efforts, acknowledging that while the afternoon may offer slight physiological advantages, morning routines are generally easier to maintain.

In the end, the decision of when to exercise hinges on individual preferences and lifestyles. Whether opting for the potential metabolic benefits of evening workouts or the customary ease of morning exercise, the key lies in consistency and personal commitment to health.

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