Pre-dawn and post-sunset exercise really does have its perks
The Benefits of Sweating By Moonlight
1 of 10All photos
Darkness has an unfairly wicked reputation. It's too often linked to bad behavior (ahem, "nothing good happens after midnight"). In reality? The dark can be the perfect environment for very healthy activities. (Here are 6 ways to dominate your nighttime workout.)
Fitness studios like SoulCycle, Barry's Bootcamp, Flywheel, and YogaWorks have long taken advantage of the perks of working out in the pitch black. And there's a growing trend of more outdoor evening events. The New York Road Runners Midnight Run, the Las Vegas Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, the Yule Light Up the Night Race in New Hampshire, Disney's Star Wars-themed Dark Side Half Marathon in Florida, and Run In the Dark events are just a few popular dark races held each year.
So don't let long, chilly winter nights keep you from an outdoor fitness routine. Pick up some reflective gear (consider LED light accessories—your goal is to be seen) and brave that pre-dawn or post-sunset workout. While there are many benefits of sweating by moonlight, here are six to keep in mind.
Darkness Is the Ultimate Judgment-Free Zone
2 of 10All photos
When no one can see you, you're more likely to lose your inhibitions and push yourself to do something new. "The dark allows you to just focus on you," says Astrid Swan, an LA-based personal trainer and fitness model (who just so happens to train Julianne Hough). "There is no judgment from peers and no judgment from ourselves."
It's Colder—Which Means You May Work Harder
3 of 10All photos
No sun means lower temperatures. While this may sound like a detriment, cool air can extend your endurance. (Check out these secrets for staying toasty warm during winter workouts.) "You'll want to keep going forever because it is so refreshing," says Magdalena Boulet, a former U.S. Olympic runner, current ultra endurance trail competitive racer and running coach. Outdoor exercise can also be more challenging. You expend more energy to overcome wind and terrain. A study in Extreme Physiology & Medicine found that people tend to move faster outdoors but reported feeling less exertion.
Photo: Westend61/Getty Images
You'll Own the Road (or Trail)
4 of 10All photos
Sidewalks, parks, and trails are less populated in colder months, while gyms, fitness studios, and athletic clubs become incredibly crowded. Just make sure to stock up on some cute cold-weather workout clothes and gear.
You Might Find Some Zen
5 of 10All photos
Between career, family, and a social life, many people don't have the time to enjoy the outdoors during the brief windows of daylight you get from October through March. According to a study in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, working out in nature leads to greater emotional well-being and better sleep than exercising indoors, regardless of the season.
Photo: altanaka/Getty Images
Moonlight Is Good for Your Complexion
6 of 10All photos
Running or cycling in the dark limits your UV exposure. There is no need to slather on the SPF to prevent skin damage when you're working out under the moon.
Photo: Georgijevic/Getty Images
Darkness = Peaceful
7 of 10All photos
As hard as it can be to get out of bed in the morning, before dawn is one of the most peaceful times to exercise. "There is something very special about running the quiet streets near your home before most people are up, the quiet, and watching the dark turn to light," says Sally McRae, a professional trail runner and coach. "I watch the sun come up every morning. When I get back home, I'm so happy I made that choice. I know the rest of my day is going to be hectic and busy and loud, but I've started my day off peaceful." Need some motivation? Find out how a coffee-guzzling night owl became an early morning exerciser.
You Might Be Your Strongest at Night
8 of 10All photos
Is your goal to boost muscle strength? A study from the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine found most people can achieve optimal muscle performance in the evening. So think about moving that weight training session to after work instead of during your lunch hour.
Photo: mihailomilovanovic/Getty Images
You'll Feel Like a Badass
9 of 10All photos
Overcoming fear of the dark will give you a boost of confidence. You could have hidden under the covers until the sun came up or crashed on the couch and watched Netflix after work. But you didn't. You bundled up and braved the shadows and things that go bump in the night (and the trash collectors in the early morning).
Photo: vgajic/Getty Images
You'll Bond with Friends
10 of 10All photos
Not only does hitting the roads or trails with a friend discourage any would-be attackers (human or animal), but it's also a great time to catch up. Life tends to get in the way—pre-dawn or post-sunset hours allow us to connect without the demands of work- or home-life banging at the door. (Discover more amazing benefits of running with a friend.)
Photo: simonkr/Getty Images