man nighttime workout on bike

Hate Morning Workouts? Evening Exercise May Be Better Anyway

For those who hit snooze a few too many times.

The early bird gets the worm, right? That’s why you set your alarm early—hit snooze a few times of course—but still manage to get a workout in before your day starts. But if rising and shining isn’t your thing, we have good news: Evening exercise may offer more health benefits than sweating it out in the morning.   

A recent study from the University of Sydney found that people with obesity get the most benefit from evening exercise (1). While exercise at any time was associated with benefits, the study suggests that those who did cardio exercise after 6 pm had the lowest risk of premature death and death from cardiovascular disease.

What Did the Research Show?

To find all of this out, researchers had 29,836 adults with obesity over age 40 wear wrist activity trackers 24 hours a day for a full week to track how and when they exercised. They then used data from the UK Biobank to follow participants’ health trajectory for the following eight years.

Researchers then categorized the wearable device data to morning, afternoon, or evening workouts. They found those that squeezed more moderate to vigorous cardio—in bouts of three minutes or more—between 6 p.m. and midnight had the lowest risk of premature death and death from cardiovascular disease. 

They also found that how often people did moderate to vigorous cardio in the evening was even more important than their total amount of daily physical activity for overall health. Study authors note that these findings suggest exercise timing may play a role in obesity management, but that more research is needed.   

Is Evening Exercise Actually Better for Health?

The University of Sydney study isn’t the first to find that exercising in the evening might have a great impact on health. 

A study from Diabetologia also found that overweight and obese men who exercised in the evening had better metabolic health—including improved glycemic control (2). Evening exercise may also have the upper hand when it comes to improving blood pressure, and increasing fat oxidation (the breakdown of fat for energy) in healthy men, suggests a small study from Frontiers in Psychology (3). 

However, not all research agrees. The same Frontiers in Psychology study also suggests that women who want to lose weight and reduce blood pressure might be better served by morning workouts. Another recent study found that getting activity early in the day was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes (4). However, when only higher intensity exercise (of moderate to vigorous intensity) was considered time didn’t matter.

In other words, so long as you get your heart rate up, any time of day is a good time for a workout.