Late Night Cardio – Stress Relief or Stressful?

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Is there an optimal time to do cardio? When do you do your cardio?


For most people who have a job with regular 9-5 hours, there are only two choices: before work or right after work.  But there’s another choice that some people do on a regular basis and that’s late night cardio. This would be defined as cardio done after dinner and right before bed, probably between 9pm and midnight. So is this the newest trend in fitness?


Definitely not. Plenty of night owls have been engaging in the late night cardio and getting plenty of good results. But does this mean it’s for anyone?


Definitely not. As we’ve posted on here many times before, every body is different. And we all have different routines and schedules. It might be more beneficial for someone to do their workouts whenever they can squeeze them in, and for a lot of people this means after the kids go to bed and dinner is done.


So it has to be late at night. For others, they won’t do any sort of workout unless it’s done first thing after they wake up. You could monitor these two people in our example here and they could both end up with completely different results. Or they could have similar results. There really is no “perfect cardio time” to workout.


However, there are more IDEAL conditions to workout that should be mentioned:


  • When done first thing in the morning in a fasted state, there are many studies that indicate your body is a better fat burning machine at this time of day. But, if you’re not a morning person at all, you could just be spinning your wheels, literally.
  • When done in the afternoon when you’ve been awake for several hours, your body could get a sudden burst of energy from the stress you are placing on it. Some people report feeling more alert and getting a little boost after a quick afternoon cardio session.
  • When done in the evening, your body is clearly already warmed up but how effective this late workout becomes is entirely different for everyone. If you’re a night owl, you might find that working out late at night relaxes you and helps you sleep better. But if you are the kind of person who wakes up frequently during the night or even has trouble falling asleep, a late cardio session might have a worse effect on these sleep habits. It could cause you to STAY awake and have disrupted sleep.


What about other benefits to working out late at night?


  • Some late night runners say they feel like they get their stress and frustration out once they pound the pavement.
  • With a boost in endorphins, many people say they feel so much happier once they complete their cardio at night, ready to relax as soon as they are home and in bed.
  • If you tend to raid the cupboards late at night, this could be a solution.  It is better to hit the gym instead of hitting the fridge, but always keep in mind you can’t outrun a poor diet. (believe me, I’ve tried)
  • Although we all have the same amount of hours in the day to work with, late at night might be your only “alone” time. If this is the case for you, as long as it doesn’t affect your sleep, then this will have to work until you have a more manageable schedule.


Here are some questions to ask yourself if scheduling late night cardio is worth the effort:


  • Do you have the type of job/schedule that literally prevents you from working out at any other point in the day?
  • Do you feel like you have enough energy late at night to complete your cardio?
  • Do you find yourself falling asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow after you’re done?
  • Are you getting up in the middle of the night alot or taking a long time to fall asleep afterwards?
  • Is your hunger level at all time low or all time high? (could be due to messed up hunger hormones from too much stress which is also a result of lack of sleep)
  • Most importantly, have you seen significant results since working out late at night or are you at a plateau?



Bottom line, if it’s worth it to you to schedule late night cardio, keep going. But if you’re finding that you are getting nowhere by pushing your body in the evening, it could be time to rearrange your schedule and priorities so you can get on a more “normal” workout routine schedule.  




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