No, We Still Haven’t Figured Out When The Best Time To Go For A Run Is… But We Might Be Getting Closer

Recent research points in favour of evening workouts, but the jury's still out.


The debate over the optimal time to hit the road or trails has plagued both runners and experts alike for what feels like an eternity. Recent studies have provided some new insights, yet the jury is still out on whether morning or evening runs are better for us.

But one study conducted by Australian researchers is the latest piece of evidence to add a significant dimension to the debate. 

The researchers looked at a cohort of 30,000 middle-aged people with obesity and analyzed health improvement rates with a focus on when the participants exercised.

The conclusion: evening workouts could hold the key to longevity.

Surprisingly, evening exercisers showed a remarkable 28 percent reduction in mortality risk compared to their morning or afternoon counterparts. 

Warm up for runners

Angelo Sabag, the lead researcher, was astonished at the pronounced risk reduction observed.

“We were surprised by the gap,” he said to the New York Times, “we didn’t think the risk reduction would be as pronounced as it was.”

However, Juleen Zierath from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden suggests that while these findings are noteworthy, the optimal exercise timing remains a mystery.

“It’s not settled,” he said to the Times, “It’s an emerging area of research. We haven’t done all the experiments. We’re learning a lot every month.”

It’s imperative to recognize that no single study can tell us the ideal exercise schedule. Individual preferences, work commitments, and fitness objectives all play pivotal roles in determining the most suitable workout timing.

No, We Still Haven't Figured Out When The Best Time To Go For A Run Is... But We Might Be Getting Closer 1

Morning Workouts: A Heart-Healthy Start

Morning runs have long been championed for their convenience and purported health benefits. 

Research from 2022 suggests that morning runs may be particularly advantageous for heart health and potentially enhancing sleep quality as well. Additionally, arguments advocating for morning runs in the context of weight loss have gained traction over the last number of years. 

A study published in the journal Obesity last year found that individuals exercising between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. boasted lower body mass indexes compared to their counterparts working out later in the day.

No, We Still Haven't Figured Out When The Best Time To Go For A Run Is... But We Might Be Getting Closer 2

Afternoon Exercise: Maximizing Performance

Contrary to popular belief, recent studies hint that the optimal workout time, especially for elite athletes, might be during the afternoon. 

Factors such as body temperature fluctuations throughout the day can significantly influence athletic performance. 

While morning exercise may present certain advantages, afternoon workouts align better with the body’s peak temperature, potentially enhancing performance and facilitating longer sleep durations.

a marathon runner is running at night

Evening Exercise: A Solution for Obesity?

The latest Australian study mentioned above suggests a compelling case for evening runs, particularly for individuals dealing with obesity. 

Evening workouts capitalize on the body’s heightened insulin resistance, effectively lowering blood glucose levels and mitigating the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular complications. 

Despite concerns regarding exercise-induced sleep disturbances, recent evidence challenges this notion and highlights the potential benefits likely outweigh the drawbacks of evening exercise for those struggling with obesity.

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The Verdict: Exercise When You Can

While these findings provide intriguing insights, it’s essential to acknowledge their limitations. 

Most studies merely establish correlations between exercise timing and health outcomes, stopping short of establishing causality. Additionally, they forget to consider an individual’s circumstances, including work, family, and other life commitments. 

Ultimately, the key takeaway is to prioritize movement in any form, whenever feasible.

Photo of author
Jessy has been active her whole life, competing in cross-country, track running, and soccer throughout her undergrad. She pivoted to road cycling after completing her Bachelor of Kinesiology with Nutrition from Acadia University. Jessy is currently a professional road cyclist living and training in Spain.

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