Manage to get yourself out of bed once for a morning workout, and you will never again have a problem convincing yourself that it’s worth it. An early morning exercise routine will activate and reinvigorate your body after a night’s rest and give you lasting energy to help you power through your day.
It’s true, an early morning workout means dragging yourself out of bed when you would much rather hit the snooze button. The first few moments might be painful, but the payoff will be so evident that it will quickly become easier and easier to find the motivation and to resist the urge to be lazy.
The kind of morning workout you do is completely up to you, but remember to be nice to yourself. The early morning is not the time for an intense workout; you don’t want to demand too much from your body while it is still waking up. Rather, find a low-impact activity that will gently help it along in this process; something you enjoy and that makes you look forward to getting up and out into the fresh air. Here are some ideas for your morning exercise to help you get inspired:
- Go for a brisk walk or a light jog in the park or around your neighborhood.
- Roll out your yoga mat in front of the open window and find a simple morning exercise routine that you like.
- Swimming is one of the most effective low-impact workouts. If you don’t live near a natural body of water, look for a local outdoor pool (weather permitting).
- Ride your bicycle to work or choose to get off a few subway stations early and walk the rest of the way.
Benefits of a Morning Workout: #1 Wake Your Body Up
Working out in the morning gets your blood pumping and your body going, leaving you feeling refreshed and energized for hours after your session is over. Your days of cheating with short-term energy boosters like caffeine may be over. In fact, a study published on the Harvard Health Blog found that ten minutes of exercise had a more powerful effect on energy levels than a moderate dose of caffeine. Why is that?
- Human bodies run on a 24 hour biochemical cycle, called a circadian rhythm.
- As evening approaches, the pineal gland in your brain begins to increasingly release melatonin, a hormone that makes you feel tired. Melatonin production is at its highest in the middle of the night, and starts to decrease towards morning.
- During the REM phase of the sleep cycle, your brain is just as active as it is when you are awake. To prevent you from flailing around and/or acting out your dreams, your brain releases chemicals which paralyze your muscles.
- Cortisol, often called the stress hormone, begins to wane a few hours after we fall asleep and then peaks in the early morning, helping to signal to our bodies that it is time to wake up.
- An early morning workout picks up where cortisol left off, helping to shake off any lingering drowsiness or effects of muscle paralysis. Morning exercise helps bringing your body into full day-time mode by raising your body temperature, increasing your heart rate and stimulating your nervous system. Also, getting outside into the sunlight will further decrease your perhaps still-fading melatonin production.
Warning: If you have a weak heart, please consult your doctor before deciding if working out in the morning is right for you.
Benefits of Morning Exercise: #2 Better Sleep
Working out in the morning regularly will help you feel energized and alert during the day, but it will also help you fall asleep more easily at night and even increase the quality of your sleep.
Not getting enough sleep is probably just about the worst thing that you can do to yourself. Sleep researchers at Johns Hopkins University have found that lack of sleep leads to:
- 48% increased risk of developing heart disease
- 33% increased risk of developing dementia
- Greater risk for depression, irritability, anxiety, forgetfulness, fuzzy thinking
- Three times greater likelihood of catching a cold
- 50% higher risk of obesity
- Pretty much every other adverse health effect that you can imagine.
Among adults, lack of sleep is an epidemic. But luckily, there is a robust amount of evidence which supports the use of exercise as a way to help people who have difficulty falling asleep – including people with chronic insomnia.
According to Johns Hopkins University, physical activity – like, for example, a regular a morning workout – increases the amount of slow wave sleep that you get during the night. It is during this phase of deep sleep that your body consolidates memories, processes things that you have learned, and repairs and rebuilds any damage in the body.
The upshot: more exercise = better sleep = better you.
Looking for more ways to get better sleep? Check out this article: Ways to Fall Asleep: Tips and Tricks
Benefits of a Morning Workout: #3 Stress Reduction
What better way to start your day than an invigorating morning workout to release built-up tension? Working out in the morning will help you get rid of your stress at the beginning of the day, leaving your mind clear and ready to take on the challenges of the day.
- Stress is not something that occurs only in your mind: it has a physical presence as well. Muscle tension, headaches, intestinal problems, and chest tightness are only a few of the outward effects of stress.
- Perhaps counterintuitively, physical exercise actually relaxes your body. Exercise reduces the levels of so-called stress hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the release of endorphins, your body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators, which are responsible for the feeling of exhilaration after a good training session.
- Your mind and your body are one. In the same way that a stressed mind will lead to a stressed body, a relaxed body sends signals of calm to your brain that will help reduce mental tension.
- If your life has been especially hectic and your stress level is particularly high, try learning how to use a morning workout as a mindfulness-based stress reduction technique.
- Exercise is so effective against stress that it has even been used as a treatment option for anxiety disorders.
- An early morning workout is also a big step forward on the path to body positivity. Developing a healthier body image will also lead you to a more relaxed state of mind and help you learn to be kind to yourself.
How to Stick to a Morning Workout Plan
If you are not a morning person, the idea of waking up at the crack of dawn to exercise may seem like a nice idea for some other people but not something that is going to be realistic for you. But that does not have to be the case. Here are some tricks you can play on your inner lazy person to help you get a bit of morning exercise in:
- Set your alarm for early enough that you don’t have to rush through your morning. Leave yourself enough time to get through your workout and get ready for your day without feeling hurried or pressured. If you begin to associate a morning workout with stress, you will lose your motivation and also reduce the positive effects that working out in the morning has.
- Lay out your workout outfit the night before, so that you don’t have to think too much when you get up: take away as many mental obstacles as possible to give yourself a clear path to success.
- If you’re having trouble, try incorporating your morning exercise into your existing routine. For example, by riding your bicycle to work or walking part of the way to the office.
- Remind yourself that working out is a way to practice self care; it is something that you are taking the time to do for yourself, purely for your own benefit.
- Reward yourself after your morning exercise with a delicious and healthy breakfast that you will look forward to, like a pumpkin smoothie or whole grain bread with homemade vegan spreads.
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