What time of day is best for an office workout?

man in suit rollerblading
Rollerblading to work -- or during your lunch break -- may be a great way to sneak in some exercise. Just be sure you aren't sweaty and out of breath around co-workers or your boss.

If you exercise regularly, or have just boarded the train to wellness, you may wonder if one time of day -- in or out of the office -- is better for exercising. Some people claim first thing in the morning is the best time to exercise. The argument for this is that it raises your metabolism for the rest of the day. Others may reason that the body, not yet warmed up or fed, will work harder and burn more body fat.

Some people believe later in the afternoon is better for exercise. They reason that it's better because your body is warmed up and ready for action. Perhaps a late-day run will undo the caloric damage you took on at breakfast and lunch.


In truth, the evidence isn't really clear whether working out at one particular time of day burns more calories than at any other time [source: Skarnulis]. This should be welcome news to third-shift employees or anyone who has access to a 24-hour gym.

It comes down to what's right for you. For some, it's easiest to work out upon waking before daily obligations barge in and demand attention. Others prefer to be fully awake when exercising and enjoy using the time to shed the day's accumulated stress.

Working out once a day for an hour is recommended, but if you can't spare an hour, getting any exercise at all is a positive thing, and a half hour is still very good [source: Blackburn]. You can even break up your exercise into two or more sessions if that works better for your schedule. Multiple sessions allow you to get in a workout before or after work, as well as another one sometime during your workday.

In fact, a Harvard University study indicated that there was little difference in benefits received from doing one hour of exercise or four 15-minute sessions spread out throughout the day [source: Blackburn]. For the office Olympian-hopeful, this means intense daily exercise sessions don't have to be sacrificed for work, just cut up into smaller blocks of time.

But what's the best time to exercise at work? We'll talk about it in the next section.


Scheduling On-the-clock Fitness

Picking the best time to exercise at work will depend largely upon your particular place of employment. First, is there a company culture that's supportive of exercise in the workplace?

If there's an on-site gym, there may be a block of time that's scheduled for exercise. Or you may be free to schedule your own workout, especially if that workout takes place in your office or cubicle and involves simple desk exercises, jumping jacks or stretching whenever workflow allows it.


Times you won't want to exercise are right before a meeting, shortly before taking or making a call or just prior meeting a client. Nobody wants to interact with a sweaty, slightly out-of-breath colleague. Also, make sure that if you break a sweat, you have a means of freshening up, such as a change of clothes. Workout clothes (and the people who wear them) often smell, and this smell is easily detected by anyone not wearing those clothes.

If working out at the company gym, leave the revealing workout clothes at home. Don't work out in spandex, short-shorts, ripped T-shirts or anything likely to draw undue attention from your friends in human resources. Instead, go with something loose fitting and comfortable. And while a gym locker room seems to bring out the nudist in many, a workplace gym locker room is no place to strut around like an unemployable libertine. Have some modesty, and respect others' privacy.

So when is the best time to exercise at work? Whether you're exercising in the workplace gym or in the privacy of your office, cubicle or company parking lot, the best time to do so is usually at lunch. For one thing, it's the time of day when you, or others, are most likely to be out of the office. Since co-workers are preoccupied with fitting as much leisure, exercise, errands, Internet surfing or actual lunch as they can into their own lunch breaks, they'll be less likely to be distracted by you.

If you have a full hour for lunch, you'll have enough time to change, exercise for a half-hour, clean up and eat. With some planning and efficiency, you'll get your day's needed exercise while keeping the rest of your off-the-clock time free for more gluttonous pursuits.

Keep reading for lots more information about exercising at work.


Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • American Heart Association. "Position Statement on Effective Worksite Wellness Programs." (April 7, 2011)http://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@hcm/documents/downloadable/ucm_308067.pdf
  • Blackburn, Gordon, MD. "Exercise: How much is enough?" Cleveland Clinic. (March 29, 2011)http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/prevention/exercise/howmuchisenough.aspx
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Healthier Worksite Initiative." Feb. 9, 2010. (April 7, 2011)http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/hwi/index.htm
  • Feldmeier, Julia. "Burn Calories, Not Bridges: Office-Gym Etiquette." The Washington Post. March 23, 2008. (April 7, 2011)http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/20/AR2008032002248.html
  • Lawrence, Jean. "Exercise at Your Desk." WebMD. Feb. 27, 2004. (April 7, 2011)http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/exercise-at-your-desk
  • Norton, Amy. "Workplace program ups employees' exercise levels." Reuters. Jan. 8, 2009. (April 7, 2011)http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/01/08/us-workplace-program-idUSTRE5074QB20090108
  • Shellenbarger, Sue. "Let the Boss Really See You Sweat." The Wall Street Journal. March 23, 2011. (April 7, 2011)http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703410604576216541550297916.html?KEYWORDS=boss+sweat
  • Skarnulis, Leanna. "What's the Best Time to Exercise?" WebMD. May 22, 2007. (April 7, 2011)http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/whats-the-best-time-to-exercise
  • Time. "Be Yourself." (March 28, 2011)http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,2051674,00.html
  • U.S. Workplace Wellness Alliance. (March 28, 2011)http://www.uswwa.org/