Researchers have long debated the ideal time of day for exercise, and most experts will ultimately suggest choosing whatever time works best for you. If you’re most energetic in the middle of the day, check out a lunchtime fitness class. If your only free time is in the evening, squeeze in a sunset jog.
Having said that, there are some distinct advantages to breaking a sweat first thing in the morning. The Chief Science Officer at the American Council on Exercise Dr. Cedric Bryant noted in a WebMD article that morning exercisers are more likely to remain consistent with their fitness routines, probably because their workouts are complete before other demands — sick children, last-minute work deadlines, the season finale of Breaking Bad — have a chance to interfere.
Researchers have also found that exercising in the a.m. can help lower your blood pressure and contribute to a good night’s sleep. And don’t forget the fact that exercise releases mood-enhancing endorphins, making it a feel-good way to begin your day.
Want to give morning exercise a try? Here are five quick tips to help you lace up your sneakers before the rest of the world wakes up.
1. Go to bed just a little bit earlier. This one’s a no-brainer. Waking up early will be extremely difficult if you’re not getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night; your body will fight back to get the rest it needs. But don’t feel as though you need to drastically alter your bedtime. Hitting the sheets just 20 to 30 minutes earlier than usual will help.
2. Move your alarm clock. The thing about beds is that they’re so darn comfortable! And when your alarm clock is within arm’s reach, it’s all too easy to hit snooze and go right back to dreamland. Instead, try keeping your alarm on the other side of the room so you’re forced to vacate the bed to silence the beeping. Once you’re up, it will be easier to stay that way.
3. Be prepared. There’s nothing worse than fumbling to find your iPod while you’re still in the morning fog. Save your brain the trouble by prepping everything the night before. Line up your sneakers, set out your outfit, and decide which bike path you’ll take or which workout DVD you’ll do.
4. Make it a habit. Studies show that our bodies perform better when we wake and sleep at approximately the same times each day. Our circadian rhythms — commonly known as our internal biological clocks — rely on consistency. That means morning exercise will be easier if you get up early most of the time, even on rest days.
5. Don’t skimp on your warm-up. Your body’s temperature is naturally lower in the morning than at other times of the day, making a proper warm-up especially important for morning exercisers. If you hop out of bed and jump right into your workout, your cold muscles will be more prone to injury. A pulled hamstring or a torn shoulder will bring your morning routine to a screeching halt, so instead, ease into your workout with at least five minutes of gentle movement to increase your body temperature and loosen up your muscles.
Morning exercise: Love it or hate it? What’s your favorite time of day to work out?