woman stretching after getting out of bed

Here’s How to Tell When You’re Too Tired to Work Out—and When You Should Power Through

To snooze, or not to snooze? This is how to choose between more sleep or working out.

By Team PelotonUpdated July 31, 2031


We’ve all been there: Your way-too-early alarm goes off and you roll over in the dark, groggy and sluggish. Or maybe you’re slinking home from work at the end of a long, busy day. The last thing you want to do is jump on your Peloton Bike or head to the gym for a sweat session. So how do you decide if you’re actually too tired to work out, or if you just need a little extra motivation to move? 

While there are warning signs that you are experiencing genuine physical exhaustion, oftentimes, a bit of exercise can actually restore your energy levels and put that pep back in your step. Here’s the deal on exercising when tired and how to know when you’re too tired to work out vs. when you should power through. Plus, we’ll cover the best exercises to do when you’re oh-so-tired.

How to Choose Between Sleep and Working Out

Ah, the eternal dilemma: to snooze, or not to snooze? Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, you likely know the feeling of being totally spent from your work and personal responsibilities (especially if they’ve been impacting your sleep quality). But at the same time, you know that the benefits of working out are many: Exercise boosts your brain health, reduces your risk of illness, strengthens your bones, and improves your mental health, among other myriad upsides. 

However, getting high-quality, restorative sleep is important to your overall health, too. In fact, getting enough sleep (think: 7 hours of sleep or more) can lower your risk for chronic illness, reduce stress, improve your mood, and boost your immune system. So when push comes to shove, how do you decide whether the benefits of extra sleep outweigh the benefits of a quick workout? Here are a few guidelines to consider.

Are You Chronically Sleep-Deprived?

Can’t remember the last time you slept more than 6.5 hours? Are you dealing with chronic fatigue? Go ahead and ignore that alarm. Getting enough sleep is the first step in having a successful workout; a lack of sleep may leave you with less energy and worse, poor attention and visual accuracy. 

Translation: You’re more likely to stumble during a run or misjudge your kettlebell swing. Your safety is always first during any workout, and if you’re too tired to be alert, go ahead and sleep in.

Are You in a Majorly Stressful Life Period?

We know that exercise relieves stress, and sometimes, a quick 20-minute workout during the day can help you mentally reset. However, in prolonged periods of stress, your cortisol levels are consistently elevated, putting your body in a constant state of fight-or-flight. In these instances, exercise might not actually be as helpful as sleep. 

Here’s why: In long periods of major stress, your body accumulates stress in what’s called the allostatic load. Basically, your body can’t tell the difference between internal stress (say, worrying about applying for new jobs) and external stress (running a 5K every day). If your stress levels are already high, hard workouts can feel 10 times harder—and you might be better served by having a chill night in and focusing on your own self-care. 

Are You Sore from Your Previous Workouts?

If you’ve been making those gains and your muscles are talking back to you, go ahead and take the rest day. Remember, rest and recovery are essential to letting your muscles repair so you can hit the gym again soon. Is your body asking for recovery time before diving into physical activity again? Don’t be ashamed to give your body what it needs. 

Are You Just Not Feeling It?

If you’re just not in the mood to work out, it can be difficult to decide whether you’re really too tired to work out or if you’re just struggling with motivation. In these instances, try picturing your future self. Will future-you have a little burst of energy or enjoy the release of endorphins that come with a workout? Or will you be grateful that you listened to your body and took that much-needed break? 

Only you can know for sure—and whatever you decide, it’s the right choice.

3 Benefits of Exercising When Tired

Good news: Once you’ve committed to the workout, you can enjoy certain upsides that come with exercising when tired. Here’s what to expect.

Improved Sleep Quality

It’s a little bit ironic, but yes, exercising when tired can help you sleep better that very night. Research shows that exercise is linked to better sleep, which will in turn boost your energy levels for better workouts, creating a consistent cycle of sleep-and-sweat-goodness.

Increased Energy Levels

Rather than totally sapping your energy stores, exercising when tired can make you feel more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. That’s because your body changes on a deep, cellular level when you exercise by creating more mitochondria, aka the powerhouse of the cell. Mitochondria transform sugar and oxygen into fuel for your body. Plus, exercise increases your oxygen circulation, which helps your body use its energy more efficiently. 

Reduced Acute Stress

If you’re dealing with acute stress (which is different from chronic stress in that it goes away quickly), a sweat session can be a solid coping mechanism, even if you think you’re too tired to work out. Here’s why: Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, which sends more oxygen and nutrients to your brain. The result? Enhanced neural activity, better cognitive performance, and — drum roll, please — the release of certain hormones and chemicals (like endorphins and serotonin) that make you feel happier.

Exercises to Do When You’re Tired

We get it, you’re already a little tired — and when you’re tired, making any decision (let alone browsing hundreds of different workout options) can feel overwhelming. That’s why we curated the best exercises when you think you’re too tired to work out, including a few must-tries recommended by Peloton employees.


No surprise here: Yoga can feel ah-mazing for your body, especially when you’re a little drained. Try a vinyasa flow if you want to get out of your head and into your body. Or, if you had a stressful day, we suggest sinking into these stress-reducing yoga poses.

Try it on the Peloton App: 

“This series is great after a long day because it’s half yoga flow to break a sweat, and half restorative to rest and reflect on the day. This combination of activity and stillness is the most healing workout physically and mentally for me.” -Anthony, Social Media


Walking is the perfect low-impact, moderate intensity exercise to try when you’re not ready for a torching HIIT session. In fact, research shows that going for a 20-minute walk three times a week can boost energy levels by 20 percent. 

Try it on the Peloton App: 

“I have been taking our dog for a long walk at the end of the work day with this class. It has been lovely!” -Sarah, Legal

20-Minute Workouts

Remember, a workout doesn’t have to be a certain amount of time to “count.” You can work out for just 20 minutes, or you can break down movement down into 5- or 10-minute chunks of time if that’s what works best for your schedule. If you’re short on time, a HIIT or intervals workout can be an effective way to get your heart rate up.

Try it on the Peloton App: 

“Lots of boxing moves to get out that end of day stress!” -Beth, User Experience


Pilates is a combination of strength, flexibility, and posture training, and most of it is done with your bodyweight only (although you can invest in Pilates props). It’s a low-impact workout, so it’s easy on the joints, and the focus is on building core strength through small, controlled movements. While Pilates can be demanding, it’s more accessible for all energy levels than, say, a 45-minute hill run. 

Try it on the Peloton App: 

“This class moves quickly, so it challenges your brain and stamina along with your muscles.” - Sara, Editorial

Anything Music-Driven or With Your Fave Instructor

When motivation is flagging, give yourself the exercise equivalent of a lil’ treat by choosing a workout based purely on the vibes you know you’ll enjoy. Whether it’s a pop princess playlist or the instructor who always puts a smile on your face, choosing a workout that will bring you joy is never a bad idea.

Try it on the Peloton App: 

“This is my favorite bootcamp. The music and different transitions between floor and Tread make the class fly by! You feel like you’ve accomplished a ton in 30 minutes.” -Maureen, Tread Hardware


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