Whether you’re just coming around to the idea of establishing a fitness routine, or you’re someone who already incorporates lots of movement and exercise into your days, you may wonder, "Is it bad to work out at night?"

On the one hand, it’s easy to understand the “If I save my workout for bedtime, I’ll just wear myself out for a good night’s sleep!” school of thought. On the other hand, there has been speculation that regular evening workouts can negatively impact not only how long it takes you to fall asleep on average, but the quality of your sleep as well.   

So, is it less than ideal to work out at night?

The answer may be more nuanced than a simple do-it-or-don’t. For example, a 2022 study to determine the ideal exercise time of day found that, for women, morning exercise reduced abdominal fat and blood pressure, while evening exercise enhanced muscular performance. For men, evening exercise increases fat oxidation and reduces systolic blood pressure and fatigue — all good things.

In contrast, a 2019 study on the effects of evening exercise on sleep showed that sleep-onset latency (the time it takes to go from being fully awake to sleeping) and total sleep time might be affected after vigorous exercise ending less than an hour before bedtime.  

So, can working out at night do you more harm than good, or is an evening workout just what the doctor ordered? To learn more, we spoke to Jourdan Baldwin, Co-Founder of KALO Fitness, a women's specific fitness studio that helps driven women bridge the gap between fitness, nutrition, and lifestyle. 

First things first: Will working out at night impact your sleep? 

“In short, possibly!”, says Jourdan, “However, this is dependent on the person, especially when it comes to work and life schedules. While, for some, working out at night can negatively impact sleep due to the body's core temperature being elevated, for others it can be an incredible stress reducer and allow people to sleep even better! As a rule of thumb, leaving about 2-3 hours between a workout and hitting your pillow should be a good enough buffer to avoid any issues.” 

Is there an optimal time of day to work out? 

As Jourdan always says, “The best time to work out is anytime you will simply show up to do it!” She continues, “This answer is also different depending on the person, and there are pros and cons for each. I have found over the years that those who get their workouts done in the morning or mid-morning are generally more consistent over time, simply because we only have a certain amount of willpower over the course of the day, and as it goes on it becomes less and less. In addition, morning workouts also lead to more energy and focus in the day, and many clients say it helps them stay on track with making better food choices as well. On the contrary, muscle function can peak in the later afternoon hours, making this a great time to work out and be able to add more intensity. I would encourage you to play with different times of the day to see what works best for your body. Consistency is key, so whatever time is the easiest for you to make work on a regular basis is most likely the best!” 

Are there some forms of exercise better for evening vs. morning workouts? 

Jourdan advises that, once again, this will mostly be a personal preference. “However, as a general rule of thumb, I'd encourage staying away from high-intensity workouts a couple of hours before going to sleep. If it's getting late, yoga or stretching would be a better choice for relaxing the body. In addition, if you are doing a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) or strength training workout first thing in the morning, a light carbohydrate 30 minutes prior (like half of a banana or a handful of berries) will help you to be able to show up with more intensity for the workout as the glucose stores will be readily available," she explains. 

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When it comes to sleep hygiene and exercise, do what works for you.

Like most things in life, the question of working out at night does not come with a clear-cut and dry answer. Instead, the best approach to establishing a fitness routine is simply to do what is ideal for your schedule and lifestyle. In short, if you’re not able to fit in a sunrise workout before the hectic day begins, don’t sweat it. As long as you avoid vigorous high-intensity exercise about 2-3 hours before getting into bed, you should see little to no negative impact on your sleep or fitness results by sneaking in your workout in the evening instead. 

Lindsey Williams is a library worker and writer who lives in Arizona with her daughter, husband, and their dog, Peaches.