If you scour the internet (or your local health club), you’ll find a lot of conflicting information about when the best time of the day is to exercise. However, there really is no straightforward answer to this question. While studies may point us in one direction, the fact remains that an effective workout is also very individual and depends on your personal lifestyle. Here are some important considerations to keep in mind when planning the time of day you hit the ground running.

According to a study conducted by the Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York, the best time to exercise is in the late afternoon, when our lungs are performing at their best. Our circadian rhythm encompasses the built-in biological processes that take place over a 24-hour period, day after day. Lung performance is weakest in the morning and around lunch time, but at its peak in the late afternoon.

But even more important than listening to a study is listening to your body and its energy cues. When it comes to when you should workout, the best time of the day depends on the type of physical activity you engage in, your mood, your social setting and your location. An effective workout is only as good as how consistently and intensely you do it. And the circadian cycle isn’t so fixed from one person to next, so your own physical, mental and behavioral responses aren’t necessarily going to follow the norm.

Working out requires a sustained focus and commitment, so choose a time when you have increased and lasting energy levels. For some people, this is first thing in the morning. For others, this is midday or at night. If you like to work out with others, find a partner whose energy levels correspond with yours. Having a 9-5 work schedule can also interfere with your workout schedule, so make the most of the free time you do have, even if it means fitting in a workout during lunch, if that is when you have the most energy.

The bottom line is to not force yourself to work out when your body isn’t up for it. You won’t benefit from a workout that is half-hearted quite like you will from one that is done when you are energized and willing to give 100 percent towards reaching your fitness goals

Photo Credit: Kazuhiro Keino