Night Owl Workouts: The Surprising Benefits and Best Exercises for Evening Fitness
Morning workouts earn praise for their metabolism-boosting benefits and energizing side effects. But if you’re not an early bird, and the thought of working out before the sun rises sends shivers down your spine, then morning workouts probably aren’t your best bet for hitting your fitness goals.
But don’t worry night owl; there’s an alternative just for you: evening exercise. Exercising at night not only works better for your natural energy levels, but it also boasts benefits that rival those of morning larks.
So you might be asking, “Is there really an ideal time to work out?” You’ll have to keep reading to find out. And who knows, you might even discover some surprising benefits of evening exercise and beneficial workouts to add to your nightly routine along the way.
What’s the Best Time of Day to Work Out?
The best time to work out is whatever time allows you to be consistent with your training. But the time of day when you will train most efficiently depends on your circadian rhythm and chronotype. Your chronotype is your body’s natural tendency for sleep and wake cycles, which determine your energy levels throughout the day. There are four different chronotypes:
- Lion: the early bird. Lions thrive in the early morning and go to sleep early.
- Bear: the “in-betweeners”. They sleep and wake according to the sun and are most productive during the day.
- Dolphin: the “always on”. Dolphins are often described as insomniacs; they thrive on power naps to be productive.
- Wolf: the classic night owl. Wolves are most productive at night (often past 6 p.m.) and go to bed well past midnight.
So if you’re a wolf–AKA a night owl– who wants to train according to their chronotype, the best time to work out is late at night, long after the sunsets. The good news is there are just as many benefits to evening fitness as the early birds get during their sunrise sessions.
Four Surprising Benefits of Evening Exercise
Night workouts do more than help you snooze your alarm a couple more times in the morning. Let’s look at some of the benefits of training after-hours.
Increased Strength and Performance
If you’ve ever tried to lift in the morning and your limbs feel like dead weight, there’s a reason for that. Not only are you struggling to wake up at 5 a.m., but your muscles and tissues are, too. Research shows that your muscles also have a circadian rhythm that causes strength to be much higher later in the day. Plus, your core body temperature and hormones rise throughout the day, which can contribute to strength and performance improvements later in the evening compared to morning workouts.
Potential for Better Sleep
Some people believe that evening exercise will have you so energized that you won’t be able to sleep. But those people would be wrong. Studies show that moderate exercise at night can help increase the production of melatonin–your body’s sleep hormone–and improve the quality of your sleep. The key here is moderate exercise and giving yourself at least 1-hour post-workout to wind down before you hit the sack. Doing high-intensity exercise like a HIIT workout right before bed won’t help you catch the Zzzs you’re after.
Wind Down After a Stressful Day
If your day is full of stressful activities–like a long commute, pick-up and drop-off schedules, and 8+ hours in the office–you need something to help you decompress. Evening exercise is your perfect excuse for a little “me-time” to blow off some steam after a long day. Plus, working out releases endorphins (“Happy Chemicals”) that will help you feel relaxed and ready to take on tomorrow.
Replace Bad Habits
Are you spending every night on the couch with a nightcap, binge-watching reality TV? These late-night habits could be holding you back from reaching your fitness goals. Swapping your lounging for a leg workout or watching your favourite show while walking on the treadmill can help break these unhealthy habits. Remember, it only takes 21 days to make a habit and 90 days to make a permanent lifestyle change.
Five Beneficial Workouts to Do Before Bedtime
Ready to reap the benefits of evening exercise? Here are 5 workouts you can incorporate into your nighttime routine.
Yoga is one of the best workouts you can do at night. Its deep stretching sessions and series of calming poses are perfect for unwinding and preparing your body for a good night’s rest. Try the Child’s Pose to release tension in your lower back, especially after a long day of sitting. Having a yoga mat, like the Fitness Town Pilates Mat, is a great way to support and cushion your joints during your flows.
A Brisk Walk
Walking is one of the most underrated exercises. It helps tighten and tone your legs, improves your cardiovascular endurance, and burns calories. It’s a great low-impact workout, which is ideal since you want to avoid a lot of high-intensity exercises right before bed. The LifeSpan TR5500iM Folding Treadmill is one of the best options for a brisk evening walk. Its cushioned belt has 8 compression shocks that absorb noise and vibrations so you don’t disturb any of your early-bird family members. And you can choose between screencasting your favourite show or following 1 of the 50+ built-in workouts.
Low-Impact Resistance Training
Low-impact resistance training is perfect for a night owl looking to strengthen and tone without exhausting your body before bed. Use a TRX Suspension System or resistance band kit, like this one from GoFit, to create full-body circuits. Or throw in some kettlebell swings and snatches to burn calories and build muscle. The key is to keep the intensity moderate and focus on controlled movements that engage the entire body.
A Harvard study found that 30 minutes of moderate cycling burns about 210 calories for a 125-pound person or 292 calories for a 185-pound person. And it’s a great, low-impact alternative to walking if you suffer from joint pain. A magnetic spin bike, like the Keiser M3i Indoor Spin Bike, is not only ultra-smooth, but it’s whisper-quiet for late-night rides.
The repetitive nature of jumping rope helps soothe anxiousness and calm your mind, making it a perfect addition to your pre-bedtime routine. And you can burn around 170 calories in just 10 minutes of jump roping! Check out the Fitness Town 11’ Bearing Jump Rope; it has a super fast rotation speed, so you can get in even more jumps per minute.
BONUS: Muscle Recovery
We’ve already covered how it’s important to limit activity at least one hour before shut-eye. But for even greater relaxation before bed, prioritize your recovery. Flushing lactic acid from your muscles will help encourage a restful night’s sleep and prevent crippling soreness in the morning. The TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller has different grooves and elevation levels to dig into knots and release tension from your full body. For a more precise massage, check out the Hyperice Hypervolt Vibration Massage Gun.
Maximize Your Day by Exercising in the Evening
If you’ve ever wondered why you struggle with low energy even after nights of getting 8+ hours of sleep, it could be due to your chronotype. Understanding when your mind and body are at their peak will help you maximize your day and productivity levels– especially when it comes to your workout window.
Evening workouts can be a game changer if you’re trying to maximize your strength and performance, improve your sleep, or simply squeeze a workout into your hectic day. To avoid having to find a gym that offers 24-hour access, consider picking up some exercise equipment for your home gym that will help you along your fitness journey.
 Douglas, Collin M., et al. “Time of Day and Muscle Strength: A Circadian Output?” Physiology, vol. 36, no. 1, Jan. 2021, pp. 44–51. DOI.org (Crossref), https://doi.org/10.1152/physiol.00030.2020.
 Teo W, Newton MJ, McGuigan MR. Circadian rhythms in exercise performance: implications for hormonal and muscular adaptation. J Sports Sci Med. 2011 Dec 1;10(4):600-6. PMID: 24149547; PMCID: PMC3761508.
 Km, Pobocik. Influence of Aerobic Exercise on Sleep and Salivary Melatonin in Men. www.clinmedjournals.org, https://doi.org/10.23937/2469-5718/1510161. Accessed 8 Aug. 2023.
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