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Is It A Good Or Bad Idea To Work Out At Night?

Here's what you need to know.
woman stretching during exercise
PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
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Try as you may to establish a daily routine, following "normal" hours isn't easy. Even if you feel like you've got the hang of it, one late night can throw your whole schedule out the window. These days, more and more people have been finding it hard to sleep—and it's understandable. One of the ways people deal with staying up all night is by exercising. We know what you're thinking: Doesn't working out before bed keep you from falling asleep? Isn't it counterproductive? Well, apparently, that claim isn't supported. 

According to a review published in Sports Medicine, it's not a bad idea to exercise in the evening as long as you don't do anything vigorous one hour before the time you intend to sleep. Researchers examined 23 studies about sleep quality and onset in adults who did one workout session and compared those to adults who did not exercise. And what they found is pretty surprising: For some, exercise actually helped them sleep faster, spending more time in deep sleep. 

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So what types of exercises can you do at night?

Go for low-impact workouts that'll slightly get your heartrate up so you know you're still working those muscles (but not too much). It can be something as easy as a plank. A plank is a full-body exercise that engages your core and strengthens your spine. Just focus on your breathing and make sure your body doesn't sag. Hold the pose for a minute before releasing. 

Of course, a popular option is yoga—which can be tough but in general, is one of the more relaxing forms of exercise. Yoga has a lot of benefits: It increases your flexibility and muscle strength, and improves your respiration, balance, and energy. 

Reasons to work out at night

1. It frees up your morning. 

If you're like me, who likes to work—prepare a to-do list, check emails, make the perfect cup of coffee—mornings are super busy. As a morning person, I'm at my most productive before noon, so I try to accomplish as many "big" tasks as I can before the rest of the world wakes up. Plus, exercising isn't part of the list of things I consider as tasks I need to be productive in. It's an escape, a chance to keep my mind blank, which is perfect to do in the evening because the day is over. 

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2. Your body's warmed up. 

When you wake up, especially if you were snapped out of deep sleep by an alarm, there's no way you're fueled up for a sweat session. Your muscles are still a bit tight, having slept in the same position for possibly hours. In comparison, if you decide to exercise at night, you'd have at least stretched your muscles during the day. Apparently, there's a chance people work out better in the eveningsspecifically "20 percent longer in the evenings, and at a higher intensity."

3. It's a good way to blow off some steam. 

Imagine this: You just spent 10 to 11 hours in front of a laptop. It was a busy day full of meetings, and you're not going to meet the deadlines you initially set for yourself. Everyone's frustrated and you have all this pent up energy (read: anger) you need to release. A good workout can do the trick! 

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4. It's more beneficial to your muscles. 

Science says muscle function peaks later in the day "and fluctuating hormones may make late- day workouts more effective." 

So when you're working out later in the day, what exactly should you be eating? 

Christy Brissette, R.D.N., tells Shape.com, "It's best to have something that's about 200 calories and high in carbohydrates from grains, fruits and vegetables, or dairy; that contains some protein; and that's low in fat and fiber, and to eat it one to two hours beforehand." But this isn't a strict rule. If you want something lighter before a workout, it's always an option to eat part of your meal now and finish the rest later. You can also just start with a snack, something like yogurt or oatmeal with nuts and then have a fuller meal after sweating. Just make sure that you aren't skipping meals or working out on an empty stomach. You won't be getting the best exercise without any energy, and you need food to fuel your body. 

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