The best time of day to use the fitness bicycle has been a long-standing debate among indoor cyclists. Some say it’s early morning, while others insist it’s night. Is one time better than the other? Exercising correctly on an exercise bike has many benefits, regardless of your workout time. There is no wrong time to be active. And you can exercise whenever your schedule permits. What’s more important is you work out consistently. However, researchers also noted that our body status changes with the time of day, which can affect our workout performance. That means morning and night workouts have pros and cons. Read on to learn how timing affects our cycling workouts and what you can do to ensure your body is 100% exercise-ready, day or night.
When’s the best time of day to use a fitness bicycle? This one is a hotly debated question, so we might as well settle it first. And to answer, the best time for indoor cycling is whenever you can as long as you do it consistently. Not all of us are morning people, so cycling before going to work may not sound enticing to some. Similarly, other individuals work long hours. The last thing on their minds is to hop on the indoor cycling bike when they get home. Some only have 20 to 30 minutes for exercise, while others can work out longer during weekends. These individual conditions shouldn’t hinder you from being active. Committing to regular exercise is already a feat. And insisting on a fixed workout time makes things even harder. So, work out in the morning or night, depending on your schedule. But choose a time that you can stick with for weeks or months. The health and cardio benefits of indoor cycling don’t happen overnight after all. Researchers also stressed the positive relationship between exercise time and consistency. For example, in The Effect of Training at a Specific Time of Day article, Chtourou and Souissi (2012) concluded that the body can adapt to regular training schedules. Moreover, sticking to a specific training time can lead to better workout performance, higher oxygen intake, and lower perceived exertion. Schumacher and colleagues (2019) had a similar finding. In their study published in the journal Obesity, they concluded that participants who exercise with consistent timing see better weight loss outcomes. More importantly, the researchers noted that the benefits of consistent exercise were evident for early morning and night exercisers.
Pros and cons of morning indoor cycling workouts We now know that the best time of day to use the fitness bicycle depends on your schedule. That means you can keep doing your morning or nightly indoor cycling routine. But what benefits do you get if you opt to work out in the morning? And how can you counter the downsides if there are any?
Pros Here are a few science-backed benefits of morning workouts that you should know.
1. Higher energy levels throughout the day Indoor cycling boosts your heart rate, pumps your circulation, and awakens your mental state. Also, finishing a 20 to 30-minute workout somehow makes you feel light, happy, and stress-free. All these positive effects help you get through a busy day. One study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine even linked morning bouts of moderate exercise to improved cognition and working memory among older adults (Wheeler et al., 2020).
2. Better adherence to exercise routine Most of us do not have deadlines or social events early in the morning. So, there’s little to no reason to miss or skip your AM fitness bicycle workout. Researchers Fournier and team (2017) also said that developing healthy habits, like exercise, is relevant to the cortisol concentration in the body. In the journal Health Psychology, they concluded that as cortisol levels are higher in the morning, it is easier to automate health behaviors during this time of day.
3. Improved sleeping patterns Are you having difficulties sleeping at night? If yes, consider mornings to be your best time of day to use an indoor exercise bike. It sounds like a struggle, considering that lack of good rest can affect your cycling workout performance. But start slow until you build the habit. Because once you do, researchers Pobocik and colleagues (2020) said it can help regulate melatonin, our body’s natural sleep regulator. Their study, published in the International Journal of Sports and Exercise Medicine, concluded that moderate aerobic exercise can increase nighttime melatonin production. In turn, you get better sleep quality. Getting a good night’s rest also means you’ll be more energized and productive throughout the day. More importantly, you get to avoid health issues associated with poor sleep. The researchers even suggested that individuals with sleeping problems should consider doing this intervention. Youngstedt and team (2019) explained this further by saying exercise causes a circadian phase-shifting effect. It only means that by doing your workouts early, you can train your body to be more alert in the morning and to feel sleepy at night.
Cons Early-morning workouts are beneficial, no doubt. But this habit also has a few drawbacks.
1. Lower peak power It’s natural to feel groggy and stiff when you wake up early. And it’s because our core body temperature and heart rate are low during this time. In a Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research article, West and colleagues (2014) explained this by observing the performance of rugby players. They found that the circadian changes in body temperature significantly influenced the athletes’ physical performance. In simpler terms, it means the body temperature is low in the morning, resulting in lower body output. However, as body temp peaks later in the day, the athletes’ physical performance noticeably improves. So, is morning not the best time to use the fitness bicycle? Not really. The research finding only suggests that it may take longer to warm up your body in the morning for optimal cycling performance. If it usually takes 5 minutes to warm yourself up for nighttime workouts, for example, morning exercises may take 10 to 15 minutes. It’s not an issue if you can wake up earlier to make room for longer warm-ups, though. But it is something to think about when you don’t have lots of free time in the morning.
2. Hunger pangs Have you experienced a rumbling stomach while doing your morning cycling workout? Perhaps you hop on your fitness bicycle the moment you wake up. While you may have eaten dinner the night before, your body should have burned it down. That means your energy reserves are already low the following morning. Once you start exercising, you’ll burn calories, lowering your energy stores even more and resulting in hunger pangs. Mornings may not be the best time to use the fitness bicycle, especially if you do it with an empty stomach. It will only affect your cycling performance, not to mention make you extra ravenous post-workout. According to clinical dietitian Reema Kanda, R.D., of the Hoag Orthopedic Institute in California, you need food to fuel your morning workouts. Kanda suggested having a 100 to 200-calorie snack rich in protein and carbs at least 1 hour before your exercise. Getting up an hour early for your morning workout may be tricky, though. So, make sure to plan. For instance, try waking up early to have a quick pre-workout snack. Then, set the alarm again and nap for a few minutes until it’s time to get up and start your cycling workout.
Pros and cons of afternoon or evening indoor cycling workouts Some people prefer to be relaxed in the morning and reserve heavy activities, like indoor cycling, after work. And like morning workouts, exercise in the afternoon or evening has benefits and downsides.
Pros Here are a few advantages of performing cycling workouts later in the day.
1. Better physical performance Indoor cycling, especially HIIT or zone-based training, can be physically demanding. It can require high levels of strength, flexibility, and endurance. And since not everyone feels physically capable in the morning, afternoon or night is the best alternative time to use the exercise bike. Researchers also noted the physical performance difference when exercising in the morning or evening. For example, in a published Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism article, Hill (2014) concluded that the participants can exercise longer in the evening than in the morning. Specifically, he noted that evening exercisers take up to 20% longer to reach the time of exhaustion. The researcher linked this finding to the higher maximal oxygen uptake of the participants who exercised at night. As your body is warmer later in the day, you are more flexible during night workouts. Also, your heart rate increases relatively faster, so you do not need to stretch your warm-up time.
2. Stress relief We’ve all been through an occasional mid-day slump, especially after lunchtime. One way to counter that sluggish feeling is an afternoon cycling workout. According to a medically reviewed WebMD article by Dr. Tyler Wheeler, indoor cycling encourages the surge of feel-good chemicals called endorphins. Workout-induced endorphins can significantly improve your mood and energy levels, allowing you to finish your workday strong. The effect is the same for night cycling workouts. A steady stream of endorphins before bedtime can help you let go of a stressful day, relax, and recharge. In a review article, Basso and Suzuki (2017) reported that minutes to hours after a single bout of aerobic exercise led to various neurophysiological and neurochemical benefits. Specifically, they highlighted that exercise can improve executive functions, enhance mood states, and decrease stress levels. We encounter all sorts of stressors throughout our day, and a good workout is perfect for a body reset.
3. Improved nighttime habit Is drinking, snacking, or watching too much TV your usual after-work activity? One reason why night is the best time of day to use the fitness bicycle is you can swap these habits with a good workout. Choosing to exercise rather than dine out is more economical, too. Also, you can opt to multi-task and watch your favorite show while pedaling excess calories away. It may take some time to get used to this change of routine. But it’s a rewarding and healthier alternative for winding down for sure.
Cons Before choosing afternoons or evenings as your best time of day to use the fitness bicycle, make sure to consider the downsides.
1. Sleeping problems There have been contradicting reports on how night workouts affect sleep. Some say sleep troubles are likely after exercising before bedtime as the activity increases your core temperature. Still, others say hormonal changes are the culprit to sleeping difficulties post-workout. Specifically, exercise leads to elevated adrenaline levels, keeping you alert and awake. The effect may be different from person to person. Some may have sleeping problems after exercise, while others experience the opposite. One research has a more updated conclusion. In the article Effects of Evening Exercise on Sleep in Healthy Participants, Stutz and colleagues (2019) said that evening exercise does not negatively affect sleep. They even stressed that contrary to traditional belief, exercising at night helps people sleep faster and better. However, they also found that performing high-intensity exercise less than 1 hour before bedtime led to poor sleep quality and delayed sleep onset. These findings only mean you should adjust your workout time and intensity to prevent sleeping issues.
2. Exercise consistency issues If you are often too tired after work, evenings may not be the best time of day to use your indoor cycling bike. Some of us may still have responsibilities or chores to take care of after a busy day in the office. And if that is always the case, maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle becomes a struggle. Consider shifting to morning workouts if things pile up later in the day. Alternatively, break your workout time into two. Spend a few minutes cycling in the morning, and then do some more after work. You can also go for longer rides on weekends or whenever you have more free time.
It is good that there is no fixed best time of day to use the exercise bike. Morning, afternoon, or night workouts are equally beneficial. What’s important is to choose a time that lets you exercise consistently. But while any time of day for exercise works, they also have a share of disadvantages. These should not dampen your drive to stay active, though. Incorporating exercise at any time of your day is better than not doing it. You only need to match your lifestyle with your chosen exercise time and be open to making adjustments when needed. If you want, go for a more flexible fitness bicycle schedule. Squeeze in a quick biking workout whenever you are free. Then, use a fitness bicycle with the right features that encourage workout variety for optimal results. Try different programs or intensities to make your daily cycling workout exciting and worthwhile.