How many times have you set your alarm for an early morning workout, only to hit the snooze button too many times and end up skipping the workout altogether? Or maybe you don't even bother setting the alarm, knowing you'll never make it to the gym or out on that run before 8 am.
If these scenarios sound like you, you're not alone. Many people shudder at the thought of an early morning exercise routine. But did you know that working out in the morning can have extra benefits over working out at other times of the day?
Keep reading to discover the benefits of morning workouts and what types of exercises are best done in the morning.
Benefits of Morning Exercises
We all know exercise is vital to our health and longevity. But exercising in the morning has particular benefits that can help set you up for a better, more productive day. Here are some of the reasons to start exercising in the morning:
Boosts Brain Function Throughout the Day
Did you know that an early morning workout helps boost your brain function? A 2019 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that morning exercise helps your mind work better all the way into the evening—even if you find yourself sitting for the rest of the day.
In the study, researchers looked at how exercise affected the participants' brain function throughout the day. In the study, participants were asked to complete multiple 8-hour days of continued sitting. Some mornings, participants were required to complete a 30-minute walk on a treadmill.
Researchers found that participants had better cognition and improved attention, visual learning and decision-making on the days they started with a morning walk on the treadmill.
Beginning your day with exercise is a great way to get your endorphins going—the "feel-good" neurotransmitters that help fight stress and anxiety. Have you ever experienced that "runner's high" or felt so good and energized post-workout? This feeling comes from the release of hormones you get while exercising.
By completing your workout early, you start your day off on a positive note with a surge of these neurotransmitters, helping to put you in a good place mentally and emotionally.
Not only does exercising in the morning give you a rush of endorphins, but you also get a boost of serotonin and dopamine. These neuro-chemicals will help enhance your mood and ease stress. Plus, who wouldn't feel good knowing they started their day doing something healthy and good for their body?
Better Accountability and Consistency
Did you know that starting your day with a workout is a great way to establish a routine? People who #riseandgrind are less likely to skip their workouts after a long, stressful day at work. It's easy to skip the gym when all you want to do is go home or head to the bar with friends to indulge in a post-work happy hour.
Start by making small changes, such as going to bed and waking up 30 minutes earlier, rather than suddenly waking up two hours earlier than usual. Doing this will help you gradually adjust and, eventually, can help you create consistency, similarly to brushing your teeth before going to work every morning.
Another tip is to lay out your workout gear, your water bottle and your keys the night before, making the morning as easy and simple as possible. If you make exercise a part of your morning routine, you'll have a harder time skipping your workout, and you'll feel a sense of accomplishment before you even step into the office.
Burn More Fat and Enhance Your Metabolism
If you're looking to lose weight, you'll likely benefit more from an early morning workout than an afternoon exercise session. According to a 2015 study published in EBioMedicine, 24-hour fat burn was higher when participants exercised in the morning before they ate breakfast, compared to participants who exercised in the afternoon and evenings.
Additionally, exercising gives your metabolism a boost when your heart rate goes up. And by building lean muscle mass, you can also slightly increase your resting metabolic rate, which is the number of calories your body will burn while you're not exercising. If you do a vigorous morning workout, you can help increase your metabolic rate for hours after exercise, commonly known as the "after-burn."
Not only will you burn more fat by working out in the morning, but you'll also get better sleep at night. A 2014 study published in Vascular Health and Risk Management suggested that adults who worked out at 7 am slept better at night than on days they didn’t work out in the morning.
Participants spent longer in a deep sleep cycle, woke up less throughout the night and fell asleep easier. Studies also suggest that exercising outdoors in the morning with increased exposure to light will help increase melatonin levels at night.
Best Exercises to Do in the Morning
Some exercises are more effective than others in delivering the endorphin-rush or after-burn benefits associated with early workouts. Here are some of the top morning workouts to try at home, outdoors or at the gym:
Studies have found that endorphin-releases during exercise vary based on the level of intensity. One of the better morning workouts that offers a significant boost of endorphins is high-intensity interval training (HIIT). HIIT is a type of interval training that alternates short periods of high-level anaerobic exercise with less-intense recovery periods. Because this workout requires short bursts of max-intensity, you're likely to burn fat very quickly.
A 30-minute HIIT session can easily burn as much fat as an hour on the treadmill.
Another bonus—this type of activity provides significant increases in brain function throughout the day by releasing higher levels of BDNF, an important brain protein.
Biking, Jogging and Walking
If you prefer more of a traditional exercise routine, put on your sneakers and head outside or to the gym for a walk, run or bike ride. Getting your heart rate up with one of these cardiovascular activities is a great way to start your day.
The burst of cardiovascular exercise can help you de-stress before a hectic day and give your mood a boost. You can also try alternating short sprints with your base pace to really get a boost of endorphins.
If these activities sound more appealing to you, try inviting a friend to go with you or alternating your route to keep things interesting. Or pair your workout routine with a good morning playlist to really get your blood pumping.
If you only have a few minutes in the morning and can't make it to the gym, try some bodyweight exercises from the comfort of your own home. To get your heart rate up, do a quick 10-minute morning workout with some jumping jacks, burpees, lunges, crunches, squats, push-ups, wall sits and planks.
Using your body weight as resistance is a great way to build up strength and improve balance and flexibility without gym equipment. Don't be fooled—these exercises are hard and can be quite challenging, providing a tough and effective workout. From shoulders to calves and every muscle in between, there are many different types of equipment-free exercises for every part of your body.
You might think that working out in the morning isn't your cup of tea, but completing a few dynamic stretches is a great way to energize your body when you wake up.
Start with some shoulder and neck stretches to loosen up tight muscles that can cause stiffness. Stretch your arms across your chest or place your hands behind your head to open up your chest and shoulder muscles. These muscle groups can be easily strained while sleeping. Stretching them when you wake up in the morning can set you up for a comfortable and very productive day.
Discover the benefits of a morning stretch routine.
Tips for Becoming a Morning Workout Person
Becoming a morning workout person may seem impossible, especially if you hate waking up early, but it's easier than you think. With a few small changes, you can easily switch your afternoon or evening workout routine to a morning exercise regime. Within a few weeks, your dislike of morning workouts might slowly disappear, especially when you find yourself feeling energized all day and have more spare time in the evenings.
Make small adjustments to begin with, ensuring you don't take on too much too quickly. Don't expect an overnight transformation. Start by waking up earlier, even by 15 minutes. Gradually, you can increase the time as your internal clock adjusts. Even 15 minutes can give you enough time to do some morning stretches and improve your health and wellness.
When you're ready to increase the intensity, try some quick at-home workouts, such as a yoga session or some of the bodyweight exercises mentioned above. Eventually, you'll likely want to increase the intensity. At this point, you can try a 30-minute HIIT class, a jog outside or head to the gym for a spin session on the stationary bike. Whatever you do, do something you enjoy. Doing an activity you love will make waking up early that much easier.
One of the best ways to make mornings better is by preparing for them in the evening. Put out your workout clothes, prepare the coffee and your breakfast, and if you can, go to bed early. If you really struggle in the mornings, you can even try sleeping in your workout gear. Or if you find yourself hitting that snooze button too many times, place your alarm clock across the room, forcing you to get out of bed to turn it off.
Make the Switch to Morning Workouts
You might not like waking up early or even going to the gym (at any time of day), but incorporating a morning workout into your daily routine has endless benefits. From improving your brain function to boosting your mood to burning more fat, exercising in the morning is worth a shot.
Remember, don't overdo it too quickly. You're more likely to give up if you suddenly start waking up at 5 am every day and forcing yourself into a new and intense schedule. Start making small tweaks to your morning routine, and if you find you need more accountability, invite a friend to make this healthy lifestyle change with you.