Have you thought about starting a morning workout routine? As a self-proclaimed “morning person,” I find the morning to be some of my most productive time. I also truly enjoy waking up early before the rest of the world starts. However, sometimes the thought of sweating and moving in the morning does not sound appealing. Like all things though, the hard stuff packs the most benefits. In this article we’ll go over 10 benefits of morning exercise. The benefits of morning exercise will be compelling evidence for starting a morning exercise habit.
Why is Exercise Important?
But, why is exercise even important? If you’re here reading this, you likely already have an idea that you should exercise. But do you know why? As a physical therapist, I am biased in favor of exercise, but the benefits to exercise are truly endless.
How Exercise Improves Health
- Less risk for chronic conditions and diseases
- Heart Health/ Cardiovascular disease
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Some Cancers
- Improved quality of life over the lifespan
- Improved brain health
- Weight management
- Strengthens bones and muscles
- Improved mental health and mood
- Boosts energy
- Improves sleep
When it comes to exercise, there are a few things to keep in mind. This includes the amount of exercise you do, the type of exercise, how intensely you exercise and how often.
Frequency of Exercise
The CDC recommends at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week. This may sound like a lot, but you can divide it up over the course of a week. For example, one day may be a 30 minute workout while another is a 60 minute work, and so on.
Intensity of Exercise
The intensity of exercise refers to how hard you are working when you are exercising. When it comes to intensity, it’s recommended that you get either 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, or a combination.
Examples of moderate intensity exercise:
- Brisk walking
- biking at less than 10 mph
Examples of vigorous intensity exercise:
- hiking uphill
- heavy yardwork
- biking at more than 10mph
Type of Exercise
Type of exercise refers to whether you are doing aerobic exercise that will challenge your endurance and cardiovascular system or strengthening exercise. A combination of both strengthening and aerobic activity are important for a well rounded exercise routine
Duration (Time) of Exercise
Ideally, you should get at least 30 minutes of exercise at a time. However, there is some recent evidence suggesting that shorter burst of 10 minutes throughout the day can also be beneficial.
Benefits of Morning Exercise
So, we’ve figured out that exercise is important no matter how or when you fit it in. However, is there really a benefit to doing exercise in the morning over middle of the day? Let’s figure out the benefits of morning exercise. Some of these are backed by research, some more common sense, and others simply practical and anecdotal. While some of these benefits are similar to those of general exercise, they are amplified when done in the morning.
The Benefits of Morning Exercise
- Encourage healthier eating. There has been some research that has suggested those who exercise in the morning have eating habits that trend toward a lower overall calorie intake and less fat and carbohydrate intake than those who exercise int he evening.
- Protects time for exercise. One of the biggest hurdles when it comes to exercise is simply finding the time to do it. For many, early morning hours are less likely to be interrupted by responsibilities, families, or pets. This can make it easier to protect this time to prioritize health.
- Improved exercise frequency and habit formation. Creating a morning workout routine that is easier to stick to (because again, easier to protect time in the morning!) will help improve habit formation. Most of us already have somewhat of a morning routine (even if it’s just go to the bathroom, make coffee, shower) making it easier to stack habits in the morning than later in the day.
- Improved self regulation. Creating a morning habit, again, makes it less likely that other competing priorities will get in the way.
- Improved sleep (even more than just exercise at any time!). Exercise may affect our circadian rhythm and melatonin rhythms positively.
- Improved Focus. Research has shown that exercise in the morning improves memory and thinking function.
- Improved energy. By delivering oxygen and nutrients to muscles and organs, exercise can help improve energy. In the morning, this can serve as your non-caffeinated boost.
- Improved mood. Endorphins are produced with exercise, and they are known to improve mood. Thus, exercise in the morning may boost you throughout the day!
How to Start a Morning Exercise Routine
While the benefits of morning exercise may have convinced you to start a morning routine, how do you actually do it? For most, starting small and setting yourself up for success are the keys to starting a morning exercise routine.
- Start small. Don’t start by planning to run 5 miles in the morning if you’re new to morning exercise or new to running! Start with something that you are familiar with and then make it less. Start by committing to 10-20 minutes of walking or a yoga video.
- Have your workout planned. It’s helpful to know what you’re going to do rather than planning it in the morning. If you do virtual workouts, plan one with that or right down exactly what you’re going to do. Some options for virtual workouts are listed here:
- Add it to your calendar and plan with your partner. I add my workouts to my calendar as a reminder, and I typically look at my day ahead the night before. I’d also recommend talking with your partner if you have a little one who wakes up early. You could try designating certain days that he or she is “on” until you finish your workout.
- Prep for the day. Have your workout clothes set out and even your essentials for work like lunch or clothes so it’s less you have to worry about in the morning.
- Try something new or fun. While it’s probably easiest to start with something you are comfortable with, consider a new yoga class or virtual class for inspiration.
- Sleep well. Getting 7-8 hours of sleep is absolutely key to not only get you up in the morning but get you going. It’s too easy to press snooze if you went to bed late.
- Do something you enjoy. If you hate running and have to drag yourself to do it, the likelihood of getting up early to do it probably isn’t great.
Citations/ Articles Cited
Fillon A, Mathieu M, Boirie Y, Thivel D. Appetite control and exercise: Does the timing of exercise play a role? Physiol Behav. 2019:112733.