When Is the Best Time to Workout to Lose Weight?

Craig Primack, MD, FACP, FAAP, FOMA

Reviewed by Craig Primack, MD, FACP, FAAP, FOMA

Written by Lauren Panoff

Published 05/13/2024

Flashy headlines, persuasive ads, and the advice of influencers all make us wonder if there’s a secret we’re missing when it comes to health and wellness. What’s the latest superfood? Should you be taking this new supplement? When’s the best time to workout for weight loss? 

Let’s hone in on that last one. Is it better to workout in the morning or evening to lose weight? Does it even matter? 

The truth is, what's most important is finding the time of day that works best for your schedule, preferences, and ability to be consistent. We looked at the latest research on workout timing for weight loss, including tips for getting it done.

Is working out in the morning better for weight loss? It’s possible, according to a new study from 2023.

Using two years of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention‘s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), researchers examined health-related habits of over 5,200 adults who wore accelerometers to track their activity. 

The data showed that those who did morning exercise — specifically from the hours between 7:00 and 9:00 AM. — had lower body mass indexes (BMI) compared to evening exercisers. 

Your BMI measures your body weight in kilograms divided by the square of your height in meters. This provides a general idea of whether you’re underweight, normal weight, overweight, or have obesity. 

But back to the study results. The authors did note this could be about more than simply early morning workout benefits. They noticed that most folks working out in the morning shared certain traits. 

For instance, the morning group was a decade older (on average) compared to night owls or those doing afternoon workouts. Most of the early birds were also white, female, college-educated, nonsmokers, non-drinkers, and they consumed fewer calories and worked out on a consistent schedule.

Interestingly, early birds were also the most sedentary for the rest of their day. Perhaps morning workouts are even more important for those who aren’t necessarily moving all day long. More research is needed to say for sure. 

Still, other studies have found that consistency in exercise habits matter most for best results.

TLDR: Your workout time isn’t the end-all-be-all for weight management. What matters more is that you’re consistent and also practicing other healthy lifestyle habits.

Experts recommend getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise every week, with strength training at least twice per week, for general health and disease prevention. 

For weight loss, this increases to three to seven hours of weekly exercise. 

However, nobody gets excited about exercise if it’s equated to the chore you put at the end of your to-do list. If thinking about exercising brings you down, shift to a perspective of daily movement.

If the idea of spending five hours a week at the gym doesn’t light you up, what other types of movement can? What matters is that you’re engaging your body in various movements throughout the week, not what you call it. 

Here are some ideas: 

  • Fast dancing to music in your living room

  • Taking a hot yoga class

  • Joining a group fitness class

  • Taking your dog for a run or brisk walk

  • Rollerblading or biking with your kids 

  • Jumping rope

Moving your body is a must for weight loss but it also offers countless benefits for your mental, heart, bone, and respiratory health.

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Weight loss treatment that puts you first

It takes practice and grit to form new habits, including getting your workouts done. Here are ten tips to help. 

1. Set Clear Goals

Whether it's weight loss, muscle gain, improved endurance, or better overall health, having specific goals keeps you motivated.

2. Schedule Your Workouts

Treat your workouts like important appointments. Set aside specific times in your calendar to exercise. This will help you stay consistent. 

3. Start Small

If you're new to working out or getting back into it, start with shorter, manageable workouts and gradually increase intensity and duration. Starting out small will make you more likely to achieve your goals, which, in turn, will motivate you to stick with your routine.

4. Find Activities You Enjoy

Experiment until you find activities you genuinely enjoy. Whether it's swimming, cycling, dancing, or yoga, having fun makes exercise feel less like a chore and more like something to look forward to.  

5. Mix It Up

Alternate between cardio, strength training, flexibility, and different formats to keep things interesting and challenge your body in new ways.

6. Get an Accountability Partner

Partnering up with a friend — or your dog — can provide motivation and support. Knowing that someone else is counting on you can make it harder to skip a workout. (How can you deny those puppy dog eyes a fun jog around the neighborhood?). 

7. Prep Your Gear in Advance

Lay out your workout clothes the night before so you’re ready to go. Maybe this means buying yourself a sweet new pair of running shoes for a little extra motivation. 

8. Reward Yourself

Treat yourself after completing tough workouts or reaching milestones. Maybe it’s a pedicure or a movie night that provides positive reinforcement.

9. Track Your Progress

Keep track of your workouts, noting the exercises you did, the duration, and improvements you've noticed in your mental health, endurance, strength, or body composition. Seeing progress over time can help you stay committed.

10. Be Flexible and Forgiving

Life happens. There will be days when you can't stick to your original plan. Instead of feeling guilty or like throwing in the towel, adjust or get back out there tomorrow.  

Exercise is a non-negotiable for losing weight, but it’s not the only factor. There are additional everyday habits that help support a healthy lifestyle and make weight loss more achievable.

Improved Sleep 

Sleep deprivation can disrupt the balance of hormones that regulate hunger, appetite, and metabolism. This may promote cravings for high-calorie foods and slower energy expenditure.

Plus, when you don’t sleep well, you’ll feel less motivated to head to the gym, which could disrupt your routine. 

Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep to support weight loss goals. Stick to a consistent sleep schedule, create a sleep-promoting environment, and avoid potentially-disruptive things close to bed like large meals, caffeine, intense exercise, and digital screens, which emit blue light that can interrupt circadian rhythm. 

Stress Management

We don’t have to tell you that ongoing stress is, well, stressful. It affects more than just your mood, impacting appetite regulation, metabolism, and eating behavior. 

When you're stressed out, your body releases hormones like cortisol (AKA “the stress hormone”). Cortisol can promote cravings for high-calorie, low-nutrition comfort foods and trigger emotional eating habits that can sabotage weight loss efforts.

Support your weight loss journey by having stress management tools that aren’t related to food readily available. Consider activities,like yoga, meditation, going for a walk, calling a friend, or doing something creative to help you unwind and return to your baseline.  

More Nutrient-Dense Foods

Ultra-processed foods are high in added sugar, sodium, and saturated fat, and they lack beneficial nutrients for health and weight loss. Examples include soda, fast food, pastries, and packaged snacks like potato chips. 

Ditch these for nutrient-dense fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and other lean proteins. These foods provide essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber to control hunger and promote satiety so you’re less likely to overeat. 

Nutrient-dense foods also give you more energy for physical activity. Doing some meal prep and planning ahead of time can help you stick to the more healthful stuff and stay on track. Don’t forget snacks!

Weight Loss Support

In addition to stress management, sleep, and nutrition, a support system can make a huge difference in your ability to lose weight. If you’re struggling with mental health challenges like depression or anxiety, therapy can be invaluable. 

Additionally, when diet and lifestyle aren’t enough, many people find success in adding weight loss medications. These work by either suppressing appetite, boosting metabolism, or preventing dietary fat absorption. 

Some common and effective options are: 

  • Topiramate: Originally an anti-seizure medication, topiramate is prescribed off-label for weight loss. It has been found to help reduce appetite and increase satiety.

  • Metformin: This medication is primarily used for type 2 diabetes, but can support weight loss by improving insulin sensitivity and reducing appetite.

  • Contrave®: This medication combines bupropion (an antidepressant) and naltrexone (a drug to treat alcohol and opioid dependence) to help control appetite and cravings while increasing metabolism.

  • Glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists: GLP-1s are a class of medications originally developed for type 2 diabetes but are also used for weight loss. They mimic the effects of natural GLP-1 hormones, which regulate appetite, promote satiety, and slow digestion.

If you’re interested in exploring weight loss medications through the Hers weight loss program, start by taking our online assessment here.  

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the best time of day to workout for weight loss. Whether you’re working out in the morning, evening, or on your lunch break, what matters most is that you’re moving your body. 

  • Prioritize daily movement. If the word “exercise” has negative connotations for you, shift your focus to daily movement. Break up your day with activities that engage in movement that you enjoy versus a daily chore to check off a list.

  • Incorporate variety. Doing the same thing every day is boring. Rotate activities like dancing, yoga, biking, swimming, weight lifting, or group fitness. 

  • Set yourself up for success. It takes time to form new habits like regular physical activity. Do things that help you prioritize workouts, like setting out your workout clothes, clearing space in your calendar, registering for fitness classes, or making plans with friends who can help hold you accountable.

If you need additional support on your weight loss journey, Hers is here to help. Check out our weight loss page for more information. 

14 Sources

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  9. Schumacher L, et al. (2019). Relationship of consistency in timing of exercise performance and exercise levels among successful weight loss maintainers.
  10. Silvani M, et al. (2022). The influence of blue light on sleep, performance and wellbeing in young adults: A systematic review.
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  14. Wren G, et al. (2023). The association between goal setting and weight loss: Prospective analysis of a community weight loss program.
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