Fact Check: Are Early Morning Workouts Bad for You?

Woman working out in the morning

Early morning exercise is the best way to start your day – according to many health advocates and scientists. However, there are some who believe it might be bad for your health and/or bring less results. So, should you be waking up early to do your sweat session or sleeping in for more health benefits?

Maybe you can guess the answer…

It depends.

Based on your goals and health status, some characteristics of morning workouts might make them more or less beneficial for you. This article will help you decide whether early morning workouts are good or bad for you.

What is meant by “early morning exercise”?

Exercising shortly after waking up, on an empty stomach, usually before 8 a.m.

black man sitting in bed in the morning

Why early morning workouts might be bad for you

The key word here is “might”. In general, for healthy individuals looking to lose weight or get fitter – morning workouts are perfectly fine. In most cases, they are even a great choice (see next section).

That being said, in the following situations you might reconsider doing early morning workouts:

1. You have cardiovascular issues

Running is good for your heart and strength training has a positive effect on your cardiovascular system, too. However, due to fluctuations in blood pressure it’s better to get an “okay” from your doctor when it comes to exercising in the early morning. As long as you prefer morning workouts and have no trouble getting enough sleep, research suggests it should be fine.(1)

2. You have diabetes

Exercising on an empty stomach is generally not a problem, as long as you don’t push beyond your limits. However, if you are diabetic, it’s advised to check in with your doctor and keep an eye on how early morning exercise affects your blood glucose levels, especially if you work out on an empty stomach.(2)

3. You have specific performance goals/intense workouts

Although research is not conclusive yet, it seems that the core body temperature in the afternoon is better for strength and power output and strenuous activities in general.(3)

However, consistency in the workout schedule, as well as your personal preference for morning vs. evening will play a big part when it comes to how you respond and adapt to your workouts.(3) So, if you have time for a good warm up in the morning to get your temperature up – give it a try!

Man working out

4. You are trying to build muscle

Again, there is no scientific conclusion on this, but it seems that the metabolic state (hormonal levels, cellular environment) is more beneficial for muscle growth later in the day – afternoon or evening.(4,5) That being said, muscle building is not impossible in the morning and your results will depend more on your effort and consistency, not the time of day. But if gaining muscle mass is really your primary goal, you might benefit from scheduling your workouts later in the day.

5. You have to cut sleep < 6 hrs

Is sleep more important than exercise? If you are drastically cutting down on your sleep, you might be better off sleeping for another hour and fitting your workout into your lunch break or after work. The negative effects of sleep deprivation often don’t show for a while, but they might be undermining your efforts to lose weight, cause headaches, mood swings, and making you less productive overall.

If any of this applies to you, does it mean you have to avoid morning workouts?

No, you don’t have to avoid them! Just make sure that…

  • If you have specific medical conditions, always consult your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen.
  • In all other cases – experiment and see how you respond to early morning workouts and whether they suit your lifestyle and help you meet your desired goals.

When early morning workouts are a great choice

You don’t have time in the afternoon/evening

Plan for success and don’t let your busy or unpredictable schedule stand in the way of doing what really matters for your health. Doing a morning workout before work or other responsibilities is a great way to make sure you won’t change your mind later in the day. You might be surprised by how a morning workout can transform the rest of your day!

You are a morning person in general

Some of us are more productive in the morning and simply love to wake up earlier, while others are the complete opposite. People can be divided into chronotypes, based on whether they function better in the morning or later in the day.

But how does this affect your workouts? If you are naturally more of a morning person, then your body might be faster at adapting to morning exercise and you will enjoy it more, which in turn, affects your workout results.(3) It will also be easier for you to wake up earlier without sacrificing too much sleep, which is great. Morning workouts are a really good choice for early birds.

You want to lose weight

Wait, before you jump to conclusions – this doesn’t mean that training in the morning will make you lose more weight. Morning exercise is not superior to evening exercise when it comes to weight loss. Losing weight comes down to burning more calories than you consume. However, there are two reasons why morning exercise might be beneficial for you if you’re trying to lose weight:

  • Curb cravings and stop overeating: If you find yourself getting crazy cravings that lead to overeating after working out, morning workouts might curb your appetite and help you make better food choices throughout the day.(6)
  • Burn more calories from fat: It’s a fact that when you train on an empty stomach, a bigger ratio of energy that you use comes from your fat stores. So if two workouts burned the same amount of calories, the one that was done on an empty stomach might trigger faster weight loss.

So, morning workouts – good or bad?

Don’t worry, they are not bad for you. In most cases, they are as good as afternoon/evening workouts. And certainly better than no exercise at all!

There are some situations in which a later workout might be better for you. But if you have time to warm up and exercising in the morning is your way to stay consistent – go for it. After all, there is no perfect time to work out, different times of the day have their pros and cons.

Before you start…

As with any type of exercise – make sure to pay attention to your body signals and consult with your doctor before starting to exercise if you have specific medical conditions. Check out this detailed guide on how to start working out if you are out of shape.

Start today with the following workouts:

adidas Training Download

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Hana Medvesek With a background in physical therapy, Hana strongly believes that movement is medicine. She likes to run, lift weights, and try out simple, healthy recipes. View all posts by Hana Medvesek »