Angelica Avolio - Personal Trainer & Nutritionist
Can running at night be beneficial for your health?
If you have a chat with active people, you’ll soon realize they split into two main groups: those who prefer to train in the morning and those who prefer to train at night. This is obviously down to personal preference, as each individual feels more energized earlier or later in the day and therefore fits in their workouts at times when they know their energy levels will be on point.
However, when it comes to outdoor running, it is more common to see people practicing this activity earlier in the morning rather than later in the evening. This may be down to a number of reasons, but probably mainly due to a decreased sense of safety. Still, night running can have some benefits on your body and your mind, and we will discuss them in this article.
What are the benefits of running at night?
As mentioned above, running at night can come with a range of advantages. It is important to mention, however, that these don’t make running at night better than running earlier in the day, as running itself is already greatly beneficial to our health.
Below we won’t be discussing the general benefits of running, like reduced risk of developing cardiovascular disease or improved heart strength, but we will only talk about the additional perks of night running.
No Early Morning Workouts
If you’re not a morning person, then a night run may be the better fit for you. I
f you’re anything like me, it takes a little while to get up and move around in the mornings. So the very thought of leaving your front door pre-6 or 7 o’clock might make you a little sick to your stomach.
By joining the growing number of night runners, you can avoid those early mornings and settle into a workout later in the evenings when you feel more energized and motivated to venture out into the world for a run.
Improved Circadian Rhythm
If you suffer from poor sleep quality or struggle to fall asleep, running in the evening can help you doze off more easily and even restabilize irregular sleeping patterns. However, this only occurs if the activity is performed >1 hour before bedtime, especially if the intensity is rather high.
In fact, despite low-intensity exercise (i.e. yoga) within 1 hour before bed may help you fall asleep, moderate to high-intensity exercise right before bed can actually have the opposite effect. So make sure to allow plenty of time between the end of your night run and your bedtime to benefit from better sleep conditions, or ensure to do some slow and relaxing movements, such as stretching, before going to bed.
Helps You Unwind
After a full day of chores, running can help relieve stress, especially in aging individuals who have sedentary jobs or are mainly sedentary in their daily lives. Running at night can therefore be an activity used to unwind from a stressful day, which in turn helps improve one’s mood in the long term, and also positively affects sleep.
If you live in an area where heat is a regular occurrence or where summers can be rather torrid, then running later at night may be a good option as temperatures drop and make it more pleasant and less strenuous to perform physical activity outdoors.
There typically aren’t as many people out running or driving at night, so if you don’t like to navigate a busy or congested road, then nighttime running might be a good fit for you. You won’t have nearly as much traffic to watch out for, and most likely, you’ll have the entire road to yourself – if that’s how you prefer it.
Tips to Run Safely Outdoors at Night
If you want to give night running a go, you need to take some precautions to keep yourself safe. Below you can find some tips to make night running more secure.
Make Yourself Visible
If you want to run at night, you need to make sure you are visible to oncoming vehicles and other pedestrians. Wear a high visibility jacket or vest to be more noticeable to drivers and prevent any accidents.
Find a Training Buddy if it Makes You Feel Safer
Running alone at night, especially in quiet areas, can be intimidating at times. If this is the case, look for a training buddy to join you so that you can feel safer.
Be Easily Contactable
Before heading out, make sure you have your phone with you and that it is appropriately charged in case you may need it for an emergency.
Listen to Your Surroundings
Many people prefer exercising whilst listening to music, but if you run at night, it is important to make sure you can still hear what is happening around you so that you can keep yourself safe and reduce the risk of accidents or injuries. You can either wear only one earphone or listen to your music at a low volume.
Run in Well-Lit Areas
To bring it back to the previous points, running in dark areas may be intimidating, besides increasing the likelihood of incurring injuries and accidents, like ankle sprains or falls. So make sure you are running in areas with appropriate lighting, and if not possible, you may need to invest in a night running light, which can be worn on your torso as a vest or belt or a head torch.
Although this also makes you more visible to vehicles, still wear a high visibility jacket to further prevent accidents.
Stay Away From the Roads
If you are running at night, favor running on sidewalks or in pedestrian areas, and try to avoid running along carriageways, even if wearing high visibility gear.
In Conclusion: Are You Ready to Join the Night Runners?
Running at night can be mainly beneficial for your circadian rhythm, as it can help you fall asleep more easily, as long as the activity is not high in intensity and performed over one hour from bedtime.
Night running can also help you unwind and get rid of the stress accumulated from a day of duties and chores and may also be the best option for those living in warm areas. However, if you like running at night, you need to take a series of precautions to keep yourself safe.
Stutz, J., Eiholzer, R. and Spengler, C.M., 2019. Effects of evening exercise on sleep in healthy participants: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Medicine, 49(2), pp.269-287.
Kannangara, T.S., Lucero, M.J., Gil-Mohapel, J., Drapala, R.J., Simpson, J.M., Christie, B.R. and van Praag, H., 2011. Running reduces stress and enhances cell genesis in aged mice. Neurobiology of aging, 32(12), pp.2279-2286.
Uchida, S., Shioda, K., Morita, Y., Kubota, C., Ganeko, M. and Takeda, N., 2012. Exercise effects on sleep physiology. Frontiers in neurology, 3, p.48.