Morning Movement or Evening Exercise: What's the Best Choice?


Exercise...what a wonderful practice of self-care that can alter energy, relieve stress, provide a sense of well-being and many other health benefits. 

Have you ever wondered if exercising at a certain time of day is more beneficial? You’re not the only one. This question has been floating around since I’ve been in the industry for a quarter century and I’m certain it was present before that. What does the research say?


Morning Movement

Dr. Scott Collier from Appalachian State University in North Carolina looked at subjects between 40 and 60 years of age. They exercised moderately for 30 minutes at 7am, 1pm and 7pm, 3 times a week. Their sleep cycles and blood pressure were monitored throughout. The study found that the 7am timeframe provided a 10% decrease in blood pressure throughout the day with a more significant decrease at night. They also found longer and better sleep cycles for those exercising in the morning versus the 1pm and 7pm times.  Other studies have mimicked this approach with similar results. 

Evening Exercise

The Clinical Research Center of the University of Chicago conducted a study involving 40 healthy men between the ages of 20-30. They discovered that individuals who participated in exercise after work attained a higher level of fitness than those who exercised in the morning. The study divided the men into five groups. Four groups completed intense exercise in the morning, afternoon or evening. The fifth group did not exercise. After taking blood samples, it was discovered that metabolism was better adapted and glucose levels decreased in those who exercised between the hours of 5pm and 7pm.  Additional studies have found similar findings. 

Schedule and Commit

What's the best time to depends!  While there’s research to assist, the best time to work out is when you’ll commit to it.

Some individuals are morning people. For instance, we have many at SAS who prefer to swim, bike or run first thing in the morning.  They love the energy boost they receive throughout the day. I don’t feel my body is ready to commit at the beginning of the day (at least to something vigorous), so I prefer lunch or afternoon. This also helps me break up the day and/or decompress.

If the time of day doesn't matter to you, perhaps test out the research.  If you are trying to improve your heart health or get better quality sleep, give morning movement a try. You may end up discovering an evening of peaceful slumber. If you want to improve fitness and decrease glucose levels, perhaps an evening exercise regimen is a good fit.

It really comes down to when it fits into your schedule and your level of commitment. For me, yoga is nice in the morning to slowly awaken my body, but I prefer higher intensity exercise after noon. Spice it up!  If you need motivation, try varied options you may not be doing now.  This can include swimming, strength training, sports, yoga, tai chi, high intensity exercise or even a simple stroll. Walking is often underrated, but has amazing benefits especially if it’s done in nature.

No Excuses

At the RFC we have a variety of offerings to participate in including personal training.  We also have an extensive video library open to SAS employees, family members and retirees. Join us virtually for a class, in-person at the RFC or determine your best exercise time and enjoy a recording. If you are a SAS employee at our Cary Headquarters, the RFC is currently operating on summer hours which are Monday – Thursday from 7am – 7pm and Fridays from 7am – 5pm.  We look forward to seeing you!


About Author

Celeste Cooper

Wellness & Fitness Manager

Celeste has been in the science, health and wellness field over twenty-five years. She began as a research chemist with a concentration in genetics and nutritional biochemistry. After working in the medical field, she saw the need to follow a path of proactive wellness and prevention. After receiving her Masters in Health Education, she ventured into the mind/body world receiving training in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Yoga. Shortly after, she received the 2003 Wellness in the Workplace Award for a large health system in the state of Virginia. In 2004, Celeste joined SAS Institute, Inc. and continues to be passionate in her position overseeing Wellness and Fitness. She believes curiosity and collaboration bring insight and new ideas which bring out the best in everyone from team members to those who are making healthy lifestyle changes. Believing that the body knows how to heal if given the proper tools, Celeste earned certifications in Aromatherapy and Essential Oils, Classical Chinese Medicine and Homeopathic & Naturopathic Medicine. She earned her Doctor of Naturopathy degree in 2020. Celeste is a published author and practices what she preaches and teaches. She is a nationally recognized Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES) and has advanced certificates in Integrative and Functional Nutrition, Genetics and Genomics. She is an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher (E-RYT) with the National Yoga Alliance, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Instructor, Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach (FMCHC) and Certified Yoga Therapist (CYT).

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