When Is The Best Time To Go To The Gym?

Identifying the optimal gym time for you.

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One of the most common questions that new prospective gym members ask when they first sign up for a gym membership is, “When is the best time to go to the gym?”

This question can actually be answered in different ways, depending on exactly what is meant by the “best time.“ When is the best time to work out at the gym to avoid crowds? Or, when is the best time to go to the gym to optimize your performance?

The ideal time for gym attendance is highly individualistic, largely dependent on one’s daily routines, body responses, and personal preferences.

Some may find morning workouts invigorating and conducive to consistency, while others might discover their peak strength and motivation in the late afternoon or late evening.

Keep reading to find out the best time to go to the gym for your workout routine.

People in a gym running and walking on treadmills.

When Is The Best Time To Go To The Gym?

If you want to have full reign of the exercise equipment and do not want to have to wait for a machine, or if you feel self-conscious and intimidated by the gym and you want to go during the quietest hours, the best time to go to the gym will be when the gym is least busy.

Therefore, when you are signing up for a new membership, if this is your primary concern, make sure to ask the membership team member, “When is the gym least busy?”

Different gyms will have different peak times, depending on the primary demographics of the member base and the location.

For example, a corporate gym located in an office building for employees will tend to be quieter during the workday and busier during the lunch break hours, as well as right before and right after a long day.

A boutique fitness studio that offers only group exercise classes will have a different clientele and different busiest times.

A woman on a treadmill smiling.

With that said, in general, most gyms have similar patterns of foot traffic and peak hours.

The majority of people work during the day, so they tend to fit their exercise into a daily schedule before or after work hours.

As such, gyms tend to be busiest in the early morning upon opening until about 8:00 or 8:30 a.m., as well as during evening workouts between 5 PM and closing.

The quietest hours at most gyms tend to be in the mid-morning and early afternoon, avoiding the lunchtime rush.

When Is The Best Time To Go To The Gym For Top Performance?

The other temporal consideration regarding when the best time to go to the gym has less to do with the crowdedness of the gym itself, but rather what is the best time to go to the gym to have a good workout.

In other words, when is the best time of day to exercise when you are looking to maximize your athletic performance?

There have been some research studies that suggest that working out in the afternoon or evening is optimal for the body from a performance standpoint.

A crowded gym floor.

For example, one study1Hill, D. W. (2014). Morning–evening differences in response to exhaustive severe-intensity exercise. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism39(2), 248–254. https://doi.org/10.1139/apnm-2013-0140 found that time to exhaustion while performing endurance exercise was 20% greater in the evening compared to the morning.

Maximal oxygen uptake (VO2) was also 4% higher in the evening compared to morning workouts, and anaerobic capacity was 7% higher. 

Additionally, according to research2Rupali, D., & Aruna, V. (2020). The Pros And Cons Of Morning And Evening Exercise A Review Article. IOSR Journal of Dental and Medical Sciences19(12), 1-07. https://doi.org/10.9790/0853-1912140107, muscles and joints are up to 20% more flexible in the evening and are consequently less prone to injury than they are during morning workouts.

There are pros and cons to any time of day, for example another study3Iwayama, K., Kurihara, R., Nabekura, Y., Kawabuchi, R., Park, I., Kobayashi, M., Ogata, H., Kayaba, M., Satoh, M., & Tokuyama, K. (2015). Exercise Increases 24-h Fat Oxidation Only When It Is Performed Before Breakfast. EBioMedicine2(12), 2003–2009. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ebiom.2015.10.029 showed that exercising before breakfast increases 24 h fat oxidation. However, a separate study showed that participants who trained in the afternoon experienced superior beneficial effects of exercise training on exercise performance and fat mass.4Mancilla, R., Brouwers, B., Schrauwen‐Hinderling, V. B., Hesselink, M. K. C., Hoeks, J., & Schrauwen, P. (2020). Exercise training elicits superior metabolic effects when performed in the afternoon compared to morning in metabolically compromised humans. Physiological Reports8(24). https://doi.org/10.14814/phy2.14669

‌Consider the practicality in terms of the logistics of your schedule, your fitness goals, and how your body feels and functions when exercising at different times of the day.

For instance, if you have young kids at home and your partner gets home from work earlier than you, it might be best to go to the gym right after work. 

A crowded gym with people working out and personal trainers.

On the other hand, if you are a morning person and like to get your workout done in the morning before the busyness of the day can potentially derail your plans or zap your energy levels, going to the gym first thing in the morning will be best.

There isn’t necessarily a “right” or “wrong” time of the day to go to the gym or a single “best time” to go to the gym that will apply equally to everyone.

Moreover, you may find that the best time to go to the gym every day depends on the type of workout that you are doing. 

Although there is something to be said about the benefit of having a consistent workout routine in terms of promoting the formation of a habit that will help promote consistency, being “consistent“ doesn’t have to entail working out at the exact same time every single day.

You might find that you prefer doing your cardio workouts first thing in the morning, but you feel stronger and more primed to have better strength training workouts if you go to the gym in the evening.

A crowded gym with people spotting each other doing an inclined bench press.

Therefore, your consistent workout routine might look something like morning workouts Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for a cardio session and Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturday nights for a resistance training workout.

Unless your schedule is inflexible to the extent that you have to go to the gym at just one specific time of day every day, you can also experiment and try going to the gym at different times of the day to see what feels best for you. 

Some people assume that they will be morning exercisers but find that they actually feel strongest and most ready to push their body in an afternoon workout.

On the other hand, plenty of people tend to feel sluggish in the morning and can’t imagine doing a hard workout, but after adjusting over the course of a couple of weeks, they find that going to the gym in the morning actually works best.

Particularly if you are new to fitness or have not been feeling motivated, strong, or otherwise happy with your current gym schedule, trying something different is a great way to see if you can make your workout routine work better for you.

A person doing mountain climbers with a medicine ball. When is the best time to go to the gym?

Keep in mind that if you end up finding that the gym is just too crowded when you are actually able to go or that it takes too much time and energy to add commuting to and from the gym into your already busy schedule, working out at home can be a great alternative. 

There are many fitness apps that offer bodyweight cardio and strength training workouts, or you can invest in just a few pieces of exercise equipment and still perform a great, well-rounded, total-body workout routine. 

Alternatively, you can supplement your gym sessions with home workouts to split the difference.

It doesn’t matter where you exercise. As long as you are safe and able to move your body and perform different types of exercise, your workout routine can take place anywhere that works best for you.

A person working out at home.

Is It Better To Work Out At The Gym Or At Home?

Although home workouts can be effective and have their benefits, there is something to be said about the accountability and structure of exercising at a gym versus doing home workouts.

While it can be convenient to work out at home, it can also be equally “convenient” to find excuses for distractions that ultimately get in the way of putting your all into your workout or even getting your workout done in the first place.

Some people find that it is difficult to stay focused and self-disciplined enough to stick with a home workout routine.

On the other hand, if you make a deliberate trip to the gym every day for your exercise, it automatically sets your mind on exercising.

A home gym is as much a “home “ as it is a “gym,” but the real gym is just that—a gym—a place to work out.

There are fewer distractions, and once you have overcome the hurdle to actually get there, you are ready to put all of your energy and attention into working out.

Two people on exercise balls doing a tricep extension.

Final thoughts

The ideal time for gym visits is personal and influenced by goals such as building muscle, weight loss, and enhancing well-being.

For those juggling a busy schedule, early morning workouts might energize the day ahead, while night owls may prefer the calm of late-night workouts to maximize their muscle strength and have a good workout.

Avoiding the gym’s peak hours during early mornings and late afternoons on weekdays can lead to more productive sessions in less crowded environments, whether it’s for HIIT, strength training, or using dumbbells.

Ultimately, aligning your physical activity with your work schedule and personal preferences is key. Whether you’re an early bird or someone who thrives on evening exercise, consistency and listening to your body are crucial.

Whenever you choose to workout, make sure you warm up, lift sensibly, and if needed, consider working with a personal trainer.

The most important thing is finding a time that suits your lifestyle and ensuring your gym sessions contribute positively to your overall health without becoming a stressor.

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References

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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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