Do you feel guilty for not being an early riser who jumps out of bed, gets into their sweat pants, and hits the gym? You probably wish you could work out at night when you’re more energetic, but you’ve heard it’s not effective.
But is it bad to work out at night?
It’s not bad to work out at night. In addition to several benefits, moderate-intensity exercises let you sleep better at night.
Working out at night enhances performance, helps with muscle development, reduces injury risks.
However, never sacrifice a good night’s sleep for a late workout session.
Read on to learn about the different benefits of nighttime sweat sessions. We’ll also give you tips on how to get the most of your workouts at night.
Does Nighttime Workout Disturb Sleep?
There was a myth that working out at night is a no-no. Many people believe that exercising at night can affect your sleep quality, primarily because the adrenaline rush increases body functions, heart rate, and metabolism.
These aren’t the best when it comes to sleeping. However, recent studies have busted the myth that working out at night could impair sleep.
A study examined 12 healthy men on three different nights, with one day between each night. On the first visit, they did moderate-intensity aerobics for half an hour.
On the second night, they did moderate-intensity resistance exercise, and on the third night, they did nothing. They finished the exercise at 21:00 and went to bed in the lab at 23:00.
According to the findings, the participants’ core body temperature and sleep quality didn’t change.
In fact, their core body temperature rose during workouts, but it went back to normal levels after 90 minutes—right before bedtime. So, the results showed that moderate-intensity exercise at night doesn’t affect sleep quality.
Another study also found the same results for sixteen male and female participants. It showed that a workout performed 4 hours before bedtime improves sleep quality.
A study on sixteen obese teenage girls reported that 40 minutes of workout at night improves sleep quality and duration. Plus, it lowers the desire to eat high-calorie foods containing fat and sugar the next morning.
Benefits of Nighttime Workout
If you’re not a morning person, you don’t need to drag yourself out of bed at the crack of dawn for a sweat session.
Getting a better night’s sleep isn’t the only upside of evening workouts. You could schedule your visits to the gym for night hours and get the following benefits as well.
1. Increases performance
You may feel too tired to go for a sweat session after work or late at night. But research has shown that the human body’s physical performance peaks in the afternoon.
According to one study, oxygen uptake and anaerobic ability increase during evening hours. As a result, the participants had a 20% increase in workout performance.
Body temperature goes up later in the day and reaches its peak between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. So if you exercise during this window, your body will perform better.
So, you can see the results of your workout much quicker when you do exercise harder, faster, and longer during high-performance peaks.
2. Develops stronger muscles
Some research indicates that muscle strength is different at various times of the day, and it’s at the highest in the late afternoon.
In the morning, cortisol levels are high, which could interfere with fat burning and muscle growth. So, working out in the evening can help you develop stronger muscles.
3. Reduces stress
Exercise can leave you in a better mood due to the flood of endorphins released during a workout. These chemicals are mainly responsible for giving pleasure and reducing stress.
After a long hard day, resist the urge to get comfy and fall asleep on the couch. Instead, hit the gym to do some moderate workouts.
You’ll get up feeling more relaxed and energetic due to the previous night’s stress-free and deeper sleep.
4. Enhances nutrient absorption
Another long-held belief that we have seen debunked is the notion of eating before bed. Having a small bedtime meal that’s nutrient-rich doesn’t lead to weight gain and can lead to weight loss.
Having protein-rich snacks can lead to increased amino acid concentrations because protein is better absorbed during the night.
Plus, eating a healthy snack after a workout is a must since it helps repair damaged muscles. If you go to bed hungry, you can’t build muscles, and your workout won’t be effective.
Make sure to eat healthy fats, complex carbs, and protein in a small snack after a workout.
5. Lowers risks of injury
According to some research, a nighttime workout is associated with reduced chances of injury. That’s because body temperature is usually lower in the morning, making it take longer to warm up.
After sleep, your muscle and joints are less flexible and stiffer. Plus, your body clock may not be tuned to morning workouts and reduce your workout quality in many ways.
6. Helps you kick bad habits
The evening is a perfect time to make excuses to follow our not-so-healthy habits.
We want to reward ourselves for working hard during the day by indulging in healthy or unhealthy snacks, curling back in front of the TV, or scrolling up and down on social media.
Why not replace these habits with some moderate-intensity workout? This way, you’ll stop your bad habits and develop some good ones.
Nighttime Exercise Tips
So, if you choose to give late afternoon or evening exercises a try, make sure to follow these tips:
1. Don’t sacrifice sleep
Don’t try to squeeze a workout into your night schedule by skimping on your sleep. Make sure to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep to get the most out of your exercise and get a hormonal balance.
By having a full night’s sleep, you give your body a chance to recover after the workout.
If you have an early day the next morning, skip the workout and go to bed early. Nothing can beat a good night’s sleep in refreshing the body.
Make sure to work out at least two or three hours before going to bed. As mentioned, the body temperature takes 90 minutes to go back to normal levels after exercise. And to fall asleep, the body needs to cool down.
So, if you exercise near your bedtime, your body might not have enough time to cool down, and you may have to stay up longer. You don’t want to disrupt your body clock by working out too late.
2. Speed up recovery by stretching
Stretching after a nighttime workout is as crucial as any time during the day.
It helps your body recover and prevents muscle injury. You could even cut your workout short for you to make time for a cool down.
Plus, it soothes your body and makes it ready for sleep.
3. Stick to your routine
A downside of working out at night is that it may be harder to make it a routine.
That’s because there are more nighttime activities that can easily replace your workout, from family get-togethers to your favorite primetime shows. So, before trying to make it a routine, make sure you can stick to it.
If you don’t seem to commit, it’s better to consider lacing up in the morning.
4. Don’t skip the shower
Never go to bed all wet and sweaty after working out. In addition to rinsing off the sweat, the hot shower water can relax your muscles and mind due to the clean feeling.
You could also take a cold shower to cool down your body and make it ready for sleep
What Exercises are Better?
Not every exercise fits into the nighttime workout routine, as it may affect your sleep quality. Generally speaking, light and moderate-intensity workouts are better to improve sleep quality.
Avoid vigorous activities at night because they can increase your heart rate and impair your sleep by stimulating your nervous system.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT), jumping rope, heavy weightlifting, running, and other strenuous activities aren’t recommended for the night.
However, yoga, walking, light weightlifting, and swimming are the best choices of light exercises.
You could also try some low-impact, full-body exercises followed by stretches. Plank, glute bridge, bird-dog, and child pose help you develop stronger cores, lower back, and hips.
They create a gentle routine that doesn’t increase the heart rate too much to disrupt your sleep.
Unlike what some people believe, exercising at night doesn’t hurt your body and can even be more beneficial. It helps you sleep better at night and wind down to have a perfect next morning.
Besides, by working out in the late afternoon or early evening, you’ll get stronger muscles and perform much better due to lower cortisol levels.
Make sure you work out at least 90 minutes before bedtime, don’t do high-intensity exercises, and have a protein-rich snack after the workout. But never cut your sleep short to make time for a workout.