Why you should get moving in the morning
Ever woken up feeling sluggish, unmotivated, and like you had less energy later in the day? While many of us love a lie in, we spend so much of our lives lounging around. In fact, another hour in bed each morning equates to an extra 15 days of sleep a year.
Now picture this: You jump out of bed early one morning, go for a brisk walk as the sun is rising and return home with an extra spring in your step feeling inspired, more productive, and ready to tackle the day ahead. Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? That’s because starting your day with an early morning workout is remarkably beneficial for your physical and mental health.
Tanya Lewis, personal trainer and dietitian at Life Personal Trainers in Adelaide, believes keeping moving is a must, regardless of your age or circumstance. “Never think you are too old for exercise. Never doubt that you can’t improve movement,” she says. “In fact, new exercise stimulus helps the brain and prevents decline. We have seen clients with Parkinson’s disease initially struggling to climb stairs progress to step ups, and even independently get up off the ground unaided.”
Some may think there’s no difference between a morning workout and an afternoon one, however here’s why you should set that alarm and schedule a sweat session before starting your day.
Feel healthy and empowered
You’ll feel accomplished after exercising in the morning because you’ve made the effort to make it happen. A study found that people who exercised regularly are more likely to make it a habit. Setting an early-morning alarm helps you be consistent, which means you’ll reap all those health benefits. Your self-esteem will sky rocket, and you’ll be more motivated – physically, emotionally and cognitively.
“I see so much progression in fitness, strength and balance, but especially in confidence and enthusiasm too,” Lewis says. “I have never heard a client say, ‘I wish I skipped that workout’, but I commonly hear clients say, ‘I thought I didn’t want to come today, but I feel so much better for it after!’”
Working out at the beginning of the day has also been proven to reduce the risk of diseases. According to a study by Appalachian State University in North Carolina, exercising in the morning can help reduce blood pressure and improve sleep. Dr Scott Collier, together with student research assistants, tracked blood pressure levels and sleep patterns of people aged 40 to 60 who exercised moderately for 30 minutes, three times per week. Volunteers walked on a treadmill at 7am, midday, and in the evening at 7pm.
In all cases, those who exercised in the morning recorded an approximate 10 per cent reduction in blood pressure, which carried through the rest of the day, and about a 25 per cent decrease in blood pressure at night. They also slept longer and had improved sleep cycles than when they exercised at other times of the day.
Lewis says there are myriad health benefits associated with starting the morning with a workout, such as the prevention of diseases, a lowered risk of dementia, and increased bone health. “Exercise has been tied to a decreased risk of some cancers, as well as heart disease. Low levels of physical fitness have been quoted as dangerous as smoking,” she says. “It’s a very potent way to optimise brain health and prevent age-related decline. It can also be a very [powerful] way to optimise brain health and prevent age-related decline. Exercise is medicine for the brain!”
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Increased bone and muscle strength
Lewis also stresses the importance of regular early exercise for the overall health of our muscles and bones. “Muscles deteriorate with age, and this process is more marked the older we get,” she says. “Exercise is proven to increase muscle sensitivity to protein and prevent atrophy or muscle breakdown.”
Resistance training, also referred to as weight or strength training, helps with joint mobility. While we sleep, our joints and muscles are usually immobile, causing them to tighten up and produce less synovial fluid, which lubricates joints to keep them moving easily. Without regular resistance training, the inter-vertebral discs decompress and absorb more fluid than normal, making them more susceptible to injury.
“As we age, resistance training is essential if we want to maintain independence,” Lewis says. “Our large muscles lift us from the toilet, chairs and into the car, and as we get older the 'use it or lose it' principal becomes even more of a truth. Muscles need regular stimulation to prevent atrophy or wasting. Small weights, body weight squats, resistance band pulls or even hitting the gym – preferably supervised with good programming – are all good options.”
Those who are time-poor may find it difficult to fit regular exercise into their daily routine, however working out in the morning helps solve that problem. Allocate time just after you wake up, while you’re clear-headed and before you’ve started your day, to get your body moving. Lewis even suggests putting your exercise plans in your calendar or diary to ensure you follow through with them.
“It need not be every day initially but start with putting it in the diary once or twice per week,” she says. “Get comfortable clothes ready for the morning and have a plan. Write down a program or use online workout ideas. Simple exercises as easy as getting in and out of a chair is better than nothing.”
Similarly, if there’s one word of advice Lewis offers to those with poor mobility, it’s don’t give up!
“Small movements count,” she says. “Start by holding a chair in front of you and practice walking motions, lifting one leg at a time. Consult a physiotherapist and work with a personal trainer, even for a short period of time, who can help you develop your own program.”
Top movements to try
While walking, yoga, online classes, stretch and balance activities, and personal training are all great ways to get your body moving in the morning, Lewis shares her top three exercises worth trying. The best part? They can all be done in the comfort of your own home!
“To be able to squat is essential for independent living. Practice going from sit to stand in a range of environments.”
“Practice standing on one leg at a time with or without support. Closing your eyes will increase difficulty.”
“Stretch in the opposite way to how the body normally sits and sleeps. Open up the chest and stretch arms out to side.”
Retirement shouldn’t slow you down – your golden years are the perfect time to nurture and nourish your body with the exercise it deserves. “The benefits of morning exercise are like the benefits of brushing your teeth in the morning,” Lewis says. “It’s a healthy habit that you don't regret and feel good for afterwards.”
Besides, waking up earlier means you’ll have more time in the day to do what you love, whether it be connecting with loved ones, embarking on new adventures, or immersing yourself in a passion project. So, what are you waiting for? Set that alarm and get moving!
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This advice has been prepared without taking into account your particular objectives, financial situations or needs, so you should consider whether it is appropriate for you before acting on it.