Study Shows Morning Workouts May Be Better for Weight Loss: Here’s Why

Research shows exercising before 9am is the secret to faster weight loss - Here's how to make it work for you.
4 mins read
Morning exercises for weight loss

Does it really matter what time you exercise during the day? As with all questions related to fitness, the answer is: it depends.

To be clear, regardless of whether you sweat it out in the morning, afternoon, or evening, you are taking a great step to improve your health. However, those who exercise in the morning may realize a greater benefit with regard to weight loss specifically.

So, should you set the alarm an hour earlier than usual to make it to the gym before work? Let’s take a closer look at this issue so that you can decide whether or not morning workouts are the right choice for you. 

The Case for Morning Workouts

We’ve all read stories of celebrities like Mark Wahlberg who famously woke up at 3:00 AM to exercise. Obviously, Marky Mark is in great shape, as are many other people who get to the gym before sunrise.

However, would he get the same results working out at night? What about in the afternoon?

Working out in the morning may help with fat loss and other fitness goals for the following reasons:

  • Improved Mood.
  • Positive Effect on Insulin Sensitivity.
  • Better Cortisol Control.

Below, we’ll review each of these issues with regard to morning workouts.

Improved Mood

In general, exercise tends to improve one’s mood. Because of this, exercising in the morning may lead to a happier demeanor throughout the day. Many people eat more when they are unhappy or in a poor mood. Therefore, exercising in the morning could set a positive tone for the day, leading to better eating habits and fewer excess calories consumed. 

Effect on Insulin Sensitivity

Insulin is an incredibly important hormone. This hormone helps to regulate blood sugar levels, which is a key factor when it comes to appetite control and weight loss. Some early research indicated that insulin sensitivity may be improved with morning workouts. However, a study from 2021 found that afternoon workouts may actually be more effective for various metabolic issues than morning exercise. So, the jury is still out on this point. 

Cortisol Control

When we think of stress, we often see it as a negative. However, stress is a normal part of life. In fact, the hormone cortisol is often referred to as the “stress hormone”, as it is released when we are experiencing different kinds of stress. If we have better internal control of our cortisol levels, we can often better regulate our weight. 

Interestingly, it seems that morning exercisers may be able to capitalize on the natural spike of cortisol in the mornings to power their workouts and burn more calories. 

Other Important Factors to Consider

In the previous section, I outlined some of the best reasons why one might choose to workout in the morning for weight loss. However, this might not be the best choice for everyone. Let’s examine some of the important considerations you should make before you start greeting the day with pull ups.

Adequate Sleep is Key

For most adults, 7-9 hours of sleep each night is important for good health. In fact, those who don’t get enough sleep may experience worse health, lower energy levels, and a variety of other negative effects. Therefore, if you are unable to get enough sleep each night because you are trying to get to the gym early, you may consider just working out at night and prioritizing your rest.

Creating a Calorie Deficit

You’ve heard it before: calories in must be less than calories out if you want to lose weight. This principle is undeniable when it comes to weight loss. Therefore, it doesn’t really matter if you work out at 4:00 AM at high intensity. If you are consuming more calories than you’re burning throughout the day, you will not lose weight.

Morning People Vs. Evening People

We’ve all met someone who can’t even have a conversation for the first few hours they are awake. We’ve also all met the person who is bubbly and happy as soon as the alarm goes off. That’s just the way life goes: we’re all different! So, if you’re a night owl, you might not achieve the same outcomes from morning workouts as an early bird would. 

Best Type of Morning Workout

The best type of workout is the one that is going to help you reach your goals. If your main goal is weight loss, you should ideally focus on high-intensity exercise in order to burn as many calories as possible in a short period of time. 

However, you should always be sure to hit your exercise minimums each week for general health. This means accumulating at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio per week and performing total body resistance training at least 2 times in a seven-day period. Be sure that you aren’t falling short of these guidelines!


Should you start exercising in the morning for weight loss? In the end, you should weigh the purported benefits and potential downsides of working out early. Morning exercisers may enjoy some benefits that evening exercisers do not. However, the timing of your workout will not work miracles.

You still need to get good sleep, eat a healthy diet, and perhaps most importantly: create a caloric deficit. But if morning exercise sounds like the perfect way for you to get a great, quality workout each day: give it a try and see what you think!

Works Cited

  1. Mahindru A, Patil P, Agrawal V. Role of Physical Activity on Mental Health and Well-Being: A Review. Cureus. 2023 Jan 7;15(1):e33475. doi: 10.7759/cureus.33475. PMID: 36756008; PMCID: PMC9902068.
  2. Mancilla R, Brouwers B, Schrauwen-Hinderling VB, Hesselink MKC, Hoeks J, Schrauwen P. Exercise training elicits superior metabolic effects when performed in the afternoon compared to morning in metabolically compromised humans. Physiol Rep. 2021 Jan;8(24):e14669. doi: 10.14814/phy2.14669. PMID: 33356015; PMCID: PMC7757369.
  3. Mohd Azmi NAS, Juliana N, Azmani S, Mohd Effendy N, Abu IF, Mohd Fahmi Teng NI, Das S. Cortisol on Circadian Rhythm and Its Effect on Cardiovascular System. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Jan 14;18(2):676. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18020676. PMID: 33466883; PMCID: PMC7830980.
  4. Chaput JP, Dutil C, Sampasa-Kanyinga H. Sleeping hours: what is the ideal number and how does age impact this? Nat Sci Sleep. 2018 Nov 27;10:421-430. doi: 10.2147/NSS.S163071. PMID: 30568521; PMCID: PMC6267703.

Bennett Richardson, DPT, PT, CSCS

Bennett Richardson, based in Pittsburgh, PA, is a dedicated physical therapist and writer. Certified as a strength and conditioning coach (CSCS) since 2014, he holds a BS in exercise science and a doctorate in physical therapy, both from Slippery Rock University. Beyond his professional pursuits, Bennett enjoys leisurely reading and staying active.

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