The Exercises You Should Avoid If You're Working Out At Night

Your workout routine could be sabotaging you. Here are the moves you should do before sleep and the ones to skip.
There are certain types of exercise you should skip close to bed if you want to ensure quality sleep.
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There are certain types of exercise you should skip close to bed if you want to ensure quality sleep.

Morning or midday exercise can boost energy, improve mental focus and cultivate consistency ― all perks that extend beyond your sweat session. Are there similar advantages to working out at night?

Nighttime fitness has its fair share of benefits. That said, the exercise moves (and how much you’ll get out of said moves) should depend on what you plan to do after being active ― whether that’s going to sleep, working a night shift or something else.

Here’s what you should know about nighttime workouts, particularly which moves you should skip and what to try instead:

Avoid cardio right before you go to bed.

Certain exercises can either help or hinder sleep patterns, according to Michael Breus, a clinical psychologist and board-certified sleep expert. For example, he said, “regular cardiovascular exercise appears to help people fall asleep and stay asleep” — but timing matters.

Breus recommended finishing your cardio workout at least four hours before you go to bed because melatonin, the hormone produced by the brain that helps with sleep, is released when your core body temperatures is low. Exercise increases that temperature.

If you’re trying to sleep, you might also want to skip a HIIT workout.

Keith Hodges, a certified personal trainer in California, said moderate or high-intensity interval training can amp you up and “the endorphins released post-exercise provide a euphoric boost in energy.” That might be great before a night out (remember those?), but it may not be the most ideal option if you’re working out before trying to sleep.

That said, try one of the options above — or even just some burpees — if you need to stay awake.

Anel Pla, a certified personal trainer in New York, is partial to multifunctional moves that can increase alertness ― like burpees. If you need to work late or stay awake for another reason, Pla said burpees can “definitely increase your energy level and prepare you physically and mentally for a long night shift.”

To correctly execute the move, begin crouched on the floor in a squat position with your hands in front of you on (you can modify by using a bench). “Kick your legs back to get into push up position then return your feet to the squat position and jump up as high as possible,” Pla said. That counts as one. If you’re a beginner, Pla suggested starting with three to five sets of 10 burpees, with a one-minute rest between each set.

Strength training is a good option for a nighttime sweat session, according to experts.
The Good Brigade via Getty Images
Strength training is a good option for a nighttime sweat session, according to experts.

Strength training is a good option if you’re exercising closer to bedtime.

Sticking to less dynamic exercise is best around bedtime, said Tatiana Boncompagni, a certified personal trainer and founder of the meal delivery service Eat Sunny. Boncompagni suggested sticking to strength training at night.

“When you’re done weightlifting, which taxes your central nervous system, you might feel a buzz and be in a calm, relaxed state … which it is ideal if you plan to just chill out and go to bed [after working out],” she said.

Boncompagni personally enjoys doing deadlifts at night. To properly execute the move, she said you should begin by “standing with legs about shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent and dumbbells in hands, palms facing the body and arms extended in front of thighs.” Inhale and bend at the waist, keeping your back straight and knees stable as you lower dumbbells over your legs toward your feet. Keep the dumbbells close to your legs as you continue to hinge forward.

Once you feel a stretch in the hamstrings, “pause and lift dumbbells back to starting position, keeping the back straight and pushing the hips forward while breathing out.” That’s one rep. Boncompagni said beginners should start with one set of about eight to 12 reps.

Wind down with some yoga.

Breus recommended doing light yoga before bed because it “helps focus the mind and relax the body.”

He prefers stretching moves like child’s pose, which “improve your circulation, which helps you sleep longer.” In order to correctly perform child’s pose, kneel on the floor with your toes together and your knees hip-width apart. Rest your palms on top of your thighs. On an exhale, lower your torso between your knees. Extend your arms alongside your torso with your palms facing down. Relax your shoulders toward the ground. Rest in the pose for as long as needed.