MYTH: Exercising at Night Keeps You Awake

Wed, 07/10/2013 - 11:49

MYTH: Exercising at Night Keeps You Awake
If you want to make sleep a priority in your life, does that mean you shouldn't work out at night? Not necessarily! Finally find out the truth behind this fitness myth.

The Truth: Exercising at night won’t keep you awake for hours afterward. You should work out at the time that is most convenient for you, whatever time that is.

Working out late at night has been a no-no in the fitness world for a long time because of the thinking that it will keep you from falling asleep, but can anyone honestly back up that claim? Probably not. There haven’t been any studies to support this logic — read more to see me crush this fitness myth once and for all!

Exercise at any time of the day or night actually helps you sleep. A study by the National Sleep Foundation found that those who report exercising close to bedtime do not have difficulty falling asleep. In fact, the study found that exercise at any time of the day or night is better for sleep than no exercise at all (excluding for insomniacs, who should restrict late evening and night exercise if it is part of their treatment). No more making excuses based on your bedtime, guys. If you have regular sleeping habits, it doesn’t matter whether you’re waking up at 5 a.m. to work out or trying to fit it in after the kids go to sleep at 9 p.m.: Any exercise, at any time of the day, will aid your sleep habits. Researchers believe physical activity improves sleep by helping to reduce levels of stress and anxiety. Vigorous exercisers are almost twice as likely as non-exercisers to report a decent night’s sleep every night of the week.

Despite common belief, exercise actually reduces levels of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Many people think that you shouldn’t exercise at night because your adrenaline levels will go up and you’ll be awake for hours. This is not the truth: It lowers the levels of those stress hormones and instead stimulates the production of endorphins, the chemicals in the brain that are responsible for the “runner’s high” and feelings of relaxation and optimism that follow many hard workouts. The idea that exercising late at night will rev up your energy is just a fallacy — and that’s it. You need to do what works for you. If 8 or 9 p.m. is the only time you can fit in a workout, go for it! There are no health reasons you shouldn’t.

Anytime is a great time of day for a workout — just be consistent. Look around and it’s easy to find health information and advice that encourages you to work out in the evening, while other sources recommend the morning — but the truth is the best time for YOU to work out is whatever time works for your lifestyle. Trust me, you won’t burn more calories if you work out at 5 a.m. versus 5 p.m. The key is to keep your schedule consistent. Ask yourself: What time of day are you most likely to work out? Stick with it and you’ll see benefits to your all-around health and sleep habits, regardless of what the clock says.

The Bottom Line: Fit your workouts in whenever you can consistently do them — don’t restrict yourself to the morning or afternoon. Evening workouts are okay — and you’ll still catch those z’s!