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Mar 25, 2021

Early Riser or Night Owl? Finding the Best Time to Run

By: Shannon Shelton Miller / Twitter: @ShannonSMWrites, Instagram: @shannon.shelton1

The evidence is clear — running in the morning has a positive impact on your mental and physical health. But what if you’re just not a morning person, no matter how much you want to run at sunrise? Luckily, there are benefits from running in the afternoon as well, including some you don’t get from running at dawn.

Here are some pros and cons of running in the morning, afternoon and evening to help you feel comfortable with the time of your choice.

Running with the chickens

If you want to sleep well at night, running in the morning is your best bet. According to the National Sleep Foundation, doing aerobic exercise early — like running — helps your overall cardiovascular conditioning and leads to deeper, longer sleep. You’ll also spend more time in restorative sleep stages.

There’s another reason why many like to start their day with a run – getting a shot of endorphins early in the morning makes you feel good. You might not need that morning cup of coffee after starting your day with a walk or run! Another benefit to running in the morning is taking advantage of lower temperatures in the summer or in a hot climate.

If you have a long run planned, though, running early might lead to you battling fatigue midday. (There’s a reason why your long runs take place on weekends!) Muscles could also be tight and joints stiff first thing in the morning, hurting your performance.

Afternoon sweat

If you’d rather sleep in, don’t worry – afternoon exercise delivers many of the same benefits. One bonus: Your muscles work more efficiently in the afternoon because your body temperature is naturally a few degrees warmer later in the day, delivering a better performance.

The sleep benefits are present as well. If you exercise at least five hours before you go to bed, your body temperature should return to normal by bedtime, helping you fall asleep easily and sleep soundly. While it could be too hot the later you wait to run, it also could be more temperate in the afternoon if you live in a colder climate or are running in winter.

If you live in an area where it’s light in the late evening hours, you might decide to go for an 8 or 9 p.m. run. While this could make you too energized to fall asleep quickly, some people find a light run as a great way to settle in before bed. If you find that late running has no effect on your sleep patterns, go for it.

The Bottom Line

Try mixing up your running times to see what works best for you. Night owls might be surprised how energized they feel by running at dawn, and early risers might start to look forward to running after getting off work. It never hurts to change things up!

What’s your favorite time to run? Tell us below!

Shannon Shelton Miller is a longtime writer and journalist who enjoys writing about sports, fitness, health, beauty and parenting. She has been running for 27 years, starting from joining her high school cross country team. She has run a marathon, two half marathons and countless 5K and 10K races.