For kids, figuring out the best time of day to work out is challenging when they’re trying to balance school, a social life, and other hobbies. Is it better to exercise in the morning or evening? What about the afternoon?
The best time to exercise depends on your kids’ lifestyles and biological factors. This brief explains the pros and cons of working out at certain times of the day to help you help your kids get the best out of their exercise routines.
What Time Is Best to Work Out?
While all exercise is good, the right time can make it even better. When it comes to the best time of day to exercise, it depends on frequency, intensity, circadian rhythm, age, daily schedule, and an individual’s constitution. So, when is the best time to go to the gym?
Due to their schedules, most kids exercise after school. Regardless of the time of day, the fact of the matter is children who exercise consistently see better results in the long term. And research suggests our bodies naturally adapt to regular training schedules.
Ultimately, the most effective exercise regime aligns with your kid's daily routines and exercise inclinations. So, if your kids work out in the afternoon, they’ll get better at doing exercise during that time of day. Building muscle and cardiovascular strength is really about consistency. What’s most important is maintaining a schedule your children can stick to for days, weeks, and months.
Our half or full-day obstacle course training is ideal for these reasons. As a parent, you never have to worry about organizing exercise activities. Just drop your kids off, and we’ll take care of them week after week while improving their general physical health and fitness.
How Can Children Benefit from Morning Workouts
A supervised morning exercise routine fires the brain’s neurons, amplifies self-discipline, and boosts focus. Scheduling work out time in the AM sets your kids up for a day of success while offering the following benefits:
- Better academic performance: Studies found physical activity can influence a kid’s academic performance because it boosts executive cognitive functioning such as visual learning, decision-making, and attention.
- Weight loss support: Kids have elevated levels of cortisol and growth hormones which are linked to metabolism. Morning exercise draws more energy from fat reserves and can help with weight loss if your children need to shed extra weight.
- Improved mood: During exercise, the brain produces endorphins, which promote a positive mood for the rest of the day. This makes kids more present and receptive to learning. Moreover, finishing a workout early in the morning provides a sense of accomplishment — like a boost of confidence — which stands kids in good stead for other, more challenging tasks they need to tackle throughout the day.
- Healthy sleeping patterns: A study revealed people who exercise in the morning have less trouble falling asleep and fewer awakenings during the night. Kids who exercise regularly tend to stay asleep longer. The more vigorous the exercise, the bigger the sleep benefit.
- Reduced stress: Breaking a sweat before school lowers the body’s cortisol levels (stress hormones). Exercise also relieves tension and relaxes muscles, which helps fight the negative effects stress has on the body. Exercise is especially helpful before your kids’ tests and exams.
Considering all these wonderful benefits, you might be wondering “what is the best time to exercise in the morning?”. It doesn’t really matter. The earlier your children work out, the earlier their body clock will shift. All this means is that they’ll get tired earlier in the evening, which primes their body to get enough rest to wake up and do the same thing the next day.
Drawbacks of Morning Fitness
If you had to ask some fitness professionals, what’s the best time to work out? They might not recommend the morning for the reasons below:
- Less sleep: Depending on your children’s sleep cycle, an early morning workout might disrupt their circadian rhythm, which can result in sleep inertia (feeling groggy). School also starts early, so if they’re trying to exercise beforehand, they’ll need to wake up extra early. However, if an early morning workout is going to cut into sleeping time, we recommend rather working out in the evening as less sleep can increase the chances of diabetes, and obesity and may lead to a shorter lifespan.
- Subpar physical performance: A child’s core body temperature is at its lowest in the morning. Therefore, it takes longer to warm up muscles and reach optimal performance. This increases the risk of injury and reduces exercise efficiency, especially since muscles are less flexible.
- Lower energy and muscle loss: One drawback of working out on an empty stomach is potential muscle loss. While some kids can exercise in what we call a “fasted state”, others with low blood sugar may experience dizziness and nausea. For those with low blood glucose levels, morning exercise might not be the best choice.
- Less safe: Depending on where you live, it may still be dark outside in the early morning. Walking, running, or cycling immediately becomes a little less safe when the sun isn’t up. In this case, a gym might be a better option. Alternatively, just change their exercise time.
Benefits of Afternoon Workouts
What is the best time of day to exercise? For your kids, it may be the afternoon. Evidence suggests afternoon exercise time can increase aerobic capacity and strength output between 8%-30%.
- Optimal performance: The human body reaches its peak internal temperatures from 2-6 pm. During this time, muscle function and enzyme activity are at their height, meaning strength and endurance are optimal. If your kids take sports seriously and are training because they’re part of a team, then exercising during the afternoon is recommended as they’ll achieve better performance over the long term.
- Schedule convenience: Due to school, most extracurricular fitness activities take place in the afternoon. Enrolling your kids in supervised sports activities not only gets them fit but also provides a social aspect, which is important for their development.
- Energy boost: A mid-afternoon workout is a great way to break up school and homework time. It can provide a much-needed mental energy boost and break, leaving your kids more productive to tackle homework at the end of the day.
- Body clock regulation: One study found exercising in the afternoon balances circadian rhythms by producing more internal clock proteins than exercising at any other time. If your kids have trouble sleeping or getting into a nightly routine, then afternoon exercise can help.
Drawbacks of Afternoon Exercise
Surprisingly, afternoons aren’t always the best time to exercise for the following reasons:
- Inconsistency: Exercising during the day may be tricky from a scheduling perspective. Enrolling your kids in a team sport or extracurricular activity is the easiest way to maintain exercise consistency and fitness levels.
- Less time: Choosing to exercise in the afternoon makes less time for other extramural activities and can push homework time late into the evening.
Benefits of Evening Routines for Kids
Plenty of parents ask us “what is the best time to exercise in the evening?”. The best time for exercise around this time is usually before dinner, so kids have enough time to wind down before bed. Here are the benefits of evening exercise time:
- Decompression: Evening exercise is a healthy way for your kids to blow off steam after a busy day. A quick exercise routine will leave them feeling happy, satisfied, and relaxed, provided it’s a gentle activity, like yoga, for example.
- Replace bad habits: If you want to reduce bad habits, like watching too much TV, then exercise can help, especially if your kids go to evening fitness or extracurricular activities.
- Better strength training: Our bodies produce more testosterone during evening workouts than in afternoon workouts. Because testosterone is an important hormone for building muscle in both men and women, an evening workout may be better for kids who need to focus on strength training.
- Longer workouts: Research shows people can exercise 20% longer at higher intensities when they exercise during the night. As such, kids have more energy for cardio and strength training in the evening.
Drawbacks of Night Workouts
The best time to work out truly depends on the individual. For some kids, working out at night is more disadvantageous:
- Sleep disturbance: Again, when you should work out depends on a person’s circadian rhythms. Strenuous physical activity that stimulates a kid’s nervous system and raises their heart rate too much can make sleep difficult.
- Less variety: Unless your kids are working out at home, training in the evening limits activity variety. That’s why most children's extracurricular activities take place during the afternoon.
How to Incorporate Exercises into Your Kid’s Daily Routine
Once you’ve figured out what is the best time of day to exercise for your kids; you’ll want to find smart ways to make it a healthy lifestyle habit. Try these creative suggestions to get your kids moving:
- Encourage older kids to partake in sports and activities that interest them. This makes exercise fun and less of a chore. If your kids are naturally athletic, that’s great. If not, perhaps they’d prefer dance, swimming, gymnastics, or obstacle-course classes.
- Younger kids can’t concentrate for long, so it’s good to make exercise a game. Creating a simple morning routine like playing Simon Says is an excellent way to get their brains fired up for learning and focused for the day ahead.
- Pay attention to how your kids respond. Young kids won’t necessarily know what they enjoy, so it’s important to introduce them to a variety of exercise activities before honing in on those they enjoy best.
- Find friends who enjoy doing the same types of exercise. It's simple psychology; exercising with friends is always more fun and promotes accountability. Working out in group settings also boosts motivation and encourages healthy competition.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), kids should have: “60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity each day. Most of the daily 60 minutes should include activities like walking, running, or anything that makes the heart beat faster.”.
So, Is It Better to Exercise in the Morning or Evening?
When it comes to working out at night vs. the morning, exercise quality will always beat timing. In general, morning workouts are ideal for burning fat and losing weight, whereas afternoon workouts maximize performance.
Ultimately, it comes down to your children’s fitness goals. The most important thing is that they exercise. If you’re looking for kids' morning or evening fitness classes in Illinois, then why not try Hot Ground Gym? You can schedule a free trial class in Arlington Heights or Libertyville.