Traditionally, farmers would wake up very early and do most of their physical labor in the cool morning hours, before it got too hot. In Ayurveda, the first four hours after sunrise are the kapha hours of the day — when physical strength, endurance, and stamina are at their greatest.
Now, we have a handful of studies in the realm of Circadian Medicine that support this ancient wisdom! (1-5)
Recently, my middle school-aged daughter asked if she could join me at the gym in the morning before school. Getting to the gym by 6am meant we would be driving to the gym in the dark.
When we entered the gym parking lot, the lot was packed with cars. My daughter said, “Dad, what is going on here?! Why are there so many cars here?”
I told her, “It sounds crazy, but the gym is most busy in the morning!” I then told her about the circadian rhythms. When we get in sync with them, we naturally prefer to follow them.
This interaction inspired me to search for some studies backing the benefits of morning exercise. These studies may help motivate you to get up early and hit the gym, yoga mat or take that brisk morning walk!
5 Reasons Morning Exercise is Better than Evening Exercise
Better Blood Sugar Regulation
In one study, morning exercise showed a lower risk of daytime hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) compared to afternoon exercise. After a 24-hour follow-up, morning exercise improved metabolic control and blood sugar on the subsequent day. (1)
Improved Parasympathetic Tone
Morning exercise was compared to evening exercise based on the amount of parasympathetic (rest, repair and digest) vs. sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system activation delivered.
Morning exercise increased parasympathetic activity, while evening exercise boosted sympathetic activity. This suggests that evening exercise is more degenerative and stressful, and morning exercise is more rejuvenating and sustainable. (2)
Note: My research on nose breathing vs. mouth breathing exercise had the same results.
Most sleep concerns are due to an inability to dial down stress hormones, like cortisol, in order to effectively sedate the body and go to sleep. According to this study, increasing evening exercise would only exacerbate the sleep issue.
Better Lung Capacity and Endurance
The endurance exercise capacity of men during exhaustive cycling exercise at 65% peak lung capacity or VO2 was significantly greater in the morning than in the evening. (3)
Less Daytime Hunger
In another study with fifty women, morning exercise delivered better daytime satiety or less daytime hunger than afternoon exercise. This suggests that a morning workout, yoga or a walk, may stave off overeating later on in the day. (4)
Increased Afternoon Strength
Some studies suggest that strength is greater in the afternoon, others suggest morning strength may be greater. (1) I think many people do feel more limber and, thus, stronger as the day goes on.
One study comparing morning and afternoon exercise showed that morning exercise significantly boosted the strength and performance during a second afternoon workout. Perhaps the best way to prepare for an afternoon game is to do a light morning workout. (5)
Try It Yourself!
Each morning, do 4 one-minute sets of jumping jacks as fast as you comfortably can with one minute of rest between each set. See how you feel after just a few days of doing this simple 8-minute workout.
With a 2-minute warm-up and cool-down, you have my favorite 12-minute workout.
We RecommendBe Fit, Thin & Calm in 12 Minutes a Day
There is no better time to start a new routine than now!