How Early Morning Workouts Lead to Successful Days

July 01, 2021

How Early Morning Workouts Lead to Successful Days

In this article:

  • The benefits of a morning workout: what science has to say
  • The benefits of a morning workout: my personal experiences
  • 5 tips to implement your morning exercise + 3 things to avoid:

According to Walker’s research, we are each born with a genetically predetermined chronotype or propensity for sleep. Chronotypes are usually broken down into morning, evening, or neither, or as bears, wolves, lions, and dolphins. Each type describes your natural, internal clock and how to determine a sleep schedule to maximize it. There is an entire Masterclass on the subject but the bottom line is that your DNA can pre-determine if you’re an early riser or a night owl. While it can be difficult to adjust your internal clock to be something you’re not (like a dolphin instead of a bear), you can change your daily habits to make it easier to wake up feeling refreshed, energized and ready for a workout.

The Benefits of a Morning Workout: What science has to say

If you need scientific proof to be truly convinced of why a morning workout routine is excellent for your health, then let’s dive into the facts.

  • More Likely To Make Healthy Choices: The domino effect is strong when it comes to starting off your day with a healthy choice! In a recent study, researchers found that those who followed a daily 30 minute exercise routine were more likely to make healthy movement and food choices throughout the day. Unfortunately, the converse is true for those who do not engage in daily exercise.
  • Increased alertness: Your circadian rhythm, often referred to as your internal clock, triggers the release of certain hormones to wake you up or help you fall asleep at the end of the day. By rising earlier in the morning, you are helping your body’s internal clock to align with the rise and fall of the moon. This then triggers the release of cortisol, a hormone that helps us to feel more alert. Overall, this will help you to get better sleep at night and feel more energized throughout the day.
  • Boost Energy Levels: The reason many people hate mornings is their energy levels are much lower earlier in the morning. A great thing about a morning routine is it can boost your energy not just in the morning, but for the rest of the day. Endorphin levels rise when you exercise, increasing blood flow and causing you to have more energy and power.
  • Keep your mind sharp: Nothing is worse than the 1 PM crash. Luckily, morning exercise has been proven to help us feel more energized, alert, and clear with better attention spans by increasing levels of brain-derived neurotrophic growth factor (BDNF).
  • Boost weight loss: Working out before breakfast may even help to fast track your weight loss goals! In one study, fat oxidation was compared between people who worked out in the early morning, afternoon, and evenings. The results showed working out prior to breakfast consistently resulted in increased fat oxidation, AKA fat burning due to glycogen depletion (more on this below!). This may also help to reduce the amount of ghrelin or hunger hormone your body produces, thus keeping your cravings and calorie consumption to a minimum.
  • Better blood glucose and blood pressure control: This is a huge win for diabetics! Studies have shown that working out in the early morning may control blood sugar and blood pressure later in the day.

The Benefits of a Morning Workout: My personal experiences

Personally, I have found that squeezing in an early morning workout is never something I regret later in the day. Getting started on the right foot helps set me up for success in ways that are hard to replicate.

  • Easier to stick to IF: I have been experimenting with intermittent fasting and have found that early morning workouts help to sidetrack my mind from thoughts about breakfast and give me a much needed energy boost. I often suffer from feeling nauseous if I eat less than 3 hours before my workouts. However, when I start my 16 hour fast at 8 PM the night before, I am ready to workout the next morning with absolutely no nausea. Plus, I can still have a morning coffee to rev up my system.
  • Prepare for the rest of the day: How you handle the morning will influence the rest of your day. I know that when I get my workout done and out of the way in the morning, it allows me the mental space to focus on work, family, and my hobbies instead of trying to find a time later on to fit it in. A morning routine gets you on track from the moment you wake up and puts you in the frame of mind to take on the day.
  • Lower stress: Stress can produce anxiety, depression, and sometimes even panic attacks. Tackling too many things at once or not having anything to fill up your day can be disconcerting. When you use exercise as a healthy stress management technique, it can improve both your emotional and physical health. It can also decrease your risk of developing depression and anxiety, heart disease, high blood pressure, and even diabetes. That frees up more room on your plate to focus on the good rather than dwelling on the bad!
  • Improve relationships: There are many ways something as simple as a morning routine can help relationships. The main one is lowering stress. It also helps to take a ‘mindful minute’ when you lose patience, your temper flares, or after an argument with a loved one. Morning exercise boosts your effectiveness in dealing with others and helps to gain perspective.
  • Retain mental sharpness: When you have a similar routine every day, it’s less likely you’ll forget something. Without thinking, you can complete important items that you might otherwise overlook. So failing to get my furry kitties fresh water each day or making sure I lock the door when I leave has become a thing of the past.
  • Improve your confidence: Exercising every morning has given me a confidence boost over time. Knowing my body has the stamina to get up and get moving every morning translates into other areas of life. Exercise can make you feel powerful (heck yeah I just beat my PR before breakfast), strong and capable. It can also contribute to a healthier body-image by helping us to understand it’s not just about getting into a pair of skinny jeans, but also about what our bodies can do.
  • Learn to be flexible: A morning exercise routine has taught me to have greater mental agility. When it’s raining, I have to choose a different workout. If my back hurts, same thing. I’ve carried this flexibility mindset into the rest of my day, helping me to better adapt to whatever life throws my way.  

5 Tips to Implement Your Morning Exercise & 3 Things to Avoid

Your morning exercise routine does not have to be elaborate, include a personal trainer, or involve 15 miles of biking through the rain and fog. Evidence has shown that just 7-20 minutes are enough to get the body going for the rest of the day. Take advantage of the benefits of fresh air by exercising in your yard or even on your balcony. After your body has been sleeping for a while, the muscles need to be awakened just as your mind does. Such exercises include jogging in place, jumping jacks, Pilates roll-up, bicycle crunches, the superman and the elbow platform. With these exercises your endorphins will kick in and your blood pressure will start to flow, waking up your extremities. Here are five DOs to help you convert to the early riser routine:

  • Pick the right time. It can be tempting to set the alarm clock for 4:30 AM so you can tackle your workout by 6:00. But when the morning comes, your body might not want to cooperate. Be realistic and allow for flexibility, but stick to your wake up time. Give yourself enough time to awake gently (instead of shoving down a protein bar and jetting off to the gym), and work out free of time constraints, at whatever time that may be for you.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. This goes along with the first tip. If you don't get a good night’s sleep, it becomes even tougher to get out of the comfy bed. So allow yourself to go to bed earlier and if necessary, force it. Eight hours is always recommended, but upwards of 10 hours may help to increase next day clarity and energy. If you have trouble falling asleep, try some nighttime meditations, listen to soft music or my go-to: naming as many Broadway musicals as I can! Pro-tip: try going to bed at the same time on weeknights.
  • Prepare your workout clothes the night before. Before going to bed, plan out your exercise routine and have your clothes ready. Planning gives you less to think about, less time for the mind’s excuses, and more time to get out and do it. If you see your socks, shoes, and tights ready to go, you’ll be more likely to get going!
  • Pour yourself a glass of water. Drinking water first thing in the morning can help to flush out toxins and kick your digestive system into gear. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon for extra vitamins and liveliness to your drink, or if you want to feel full and energized, consider adding a scoop of collagen powder. Water first, coffee later!
  • Put together a motivating playlist. For me, music is a way of life. Without the right music, I would not be able to do half the things I do. A fun playlist for your workout is an excellent motivator to get going in the AM and actually enjoy yourself while you’re at it. Get on Spotify and get inspired by the hundreds of great workout playlists to choose from, or spend an hour a week downloading fresh tracks you can look forward to listening to. These five tips will help even the heaviest of snoozers to get up and get moving. Here are an additional 3 obstacles you should avoid so you can wake up on the right track.
  • Avoid cheat days for at least three weeks. It is said that you need at least 30 days to form a new habit and stick to it. After that time period, you are in the optimal position to stick to your plan and keep going on your workouts. Try the 21/90 technique; do it every day for 21 days, then solidify it with another 90. The theory here is that if you can keep up something for three weeks, then in another ninety days it should become a permanent lifestyle change.
  • Don’t forget to celebrate your wins I am a big believer in rewarding progress. Whatever helps you to give yourself a pat on the back, find a way to make this part of your new lifestyle choices. Get yourself a new workout top or indulge in that “fancy” granola you never buy. Focusing on the positives and finding a way to celebrate your new morning habits will help to keep you going.
  • Don’t forget to update your workouts: Humans aren’t lab rats. You need novelty and variety. Be sure to include a diverse range of exercises in your morning routine so you don’t get bored. Try a combination of workouts each week, not just one. This helps your mind to stay motivated and your body will see better results.
Final Note

While the physical benefits of exercise speak for themselves, we don't often acknowledge the emotional and psychological benefits in the same way. Morning workouts are excellent for your body & health goals but they also set you up to better handle the rest of your day and life. Set realistic goals, take the time to plan workouts, find motivation in music and rewards, and start small. These tips will help you establish a consistent and enjoyable morning workout routine.

Finally, there is no wrong way to move your body. Find a form of exercise you love and that 6am alarm won’t feel so scary after all. If you are a morning walker like me, maybe I’ll even see you out there!

Summary Points

  • By rising earlier in the morning, you are helping your body’s internal clock to align with the rise and fall of the moon
  • A great thing about a morning routine is it can boost your energy not just in the morning, but for the rest of the day
  • Exercise has been proven to help us feel more energized, alert, and clear with better attention spans by increasing levels of brain-derived neurotrophic growth factor (BDNF)
  • When you use exercise as a healthy stress management technique, it can improve both your emotional and physical health
  • Be sure to include a diverse range of exercises in your morning routine so you don’t get bored




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