There are a lot of benefits to a good morning workout. Working out in the morning before your work day has begun is the best way to make sure that you do manage to pack some fitness into your day, especially if you struggle with finding time to work out.
If you don’t get in the habit of a good morning workout when you start your day, there’s a high chance you’ll procrastinate and not end up exercising later in the day.
Often, other commitments and tasks pile up throughout the day that tire us out or eat into our time, enabling us to easily excuse skipping our daily workout. By getting it done first thing in the morning, you won’t need to worry about trying to squeeze it in when you’re already tired and overwhelmed.
However, the benefits of a good morning workout aren’t just about time management and avoiding procrastination. Starting your day with some movement can also lead to major improvements in your daily energy, mood, disposition, mental clarity, digestion, mobility and cardiovascular health. Getting the blood flowing early in the morning can also help you feel more mentally alert and awake, potentially leading to a more productive day.
Read on for a full breakdown of how and why you should consider adding a good morning workout to your waking-up routine.
Why Should You Work Out in The Morning?
Apart from the physical benefits of a good morning workout, exercising first thing in the morning can bring about a host of mental health benefits. Added mental clarity, more energy during the first half of your day, and a better night’s sleep are just a few things you can look forward to if you start incorporating a good morning workout into your daily routine. Additionally, if you can develop the discipline to exercise first thing in the morning, that discipline is likely to carry over into other areas of your life as well, resulting in better time management skills, self-control and even greater awareness and emotional regulation skills.
Now, let’s look at the physical benefits of a good morning workout. For starters, exercise can help you regulate the release of the hunger hormone ghrelin. Studies have suggested that aerobic exercise in particular can change the levels of hunger hormones ghrelin and leptin, briefly reducing appetite. Not only that, but if you start your day with a workout, you will be more likely to make healthier food choices throughout the day, whereas if you delay your workout until the evening or late afternoon, you are more likely to eat poorly and justify that you will work it off later, which might be unlikely to happen.
If losing weight is your goal, you might have more success if you work out in the morning as opposed to later in the day. That’s because of a phenomenon known as EPOC, or post-exercise oxygen consumption. Basically, your body continues to burn calories, even at rest, after you’ve completed a workout. This is true no matter what time of day you work out, but studies like this one have suggested that a morning workout is better for fat oxidation than one performed later in the day.
Finally, working out in the morning is likely your optimal time of day because you have more energy, thanks to the hormone cortisol. Cortisol gets a bad rap, but any problems associated with it are usually due to having too much or too little of it. Cortisol keeps us alert and energized, levels of it tend to be higher in the morning, so you will likely find that you have more energy for a morning workout compared to one done later in the day or evening after your cortisol levels have been depleted.
Good Morning Workout Timing: Should You Workout As Soon As You Wake Up?
So, should a good morning workout be done as soon as you wake up? Ultimately, this comes down to your personal preference.
Some people like to do it right away because it helps wake them up, and they believe in something called ‘fasted cardio’ where you exercise on an empty stomach to burn fat.
Before starting their morning workout, however, some people prefer to first have a coffee, journal, or even eat a small breakfast. Others who tend to procrastinate like to get up and go workout right away in order to ensure they accomplish it.
There is no right or wrong answer here, the important thing is getting it done, and whatever is feasible and manageable for your life is how you should approach your morning workout, whether that means as soon as you wake up or 45 minutes to an hour later. However, some light movements like stretching and bending as soon as you wake up can help get your blood flowing and better prepare you for a morning workout.
Always drink water before your workout, though. (And afterwards.)
Fasted or Fed?
First of all, it’s important to start your day with plenty of water, whether you plan to work out or not. Your body has likely gone over 6 hours without water, so rehydrating is essential, even more so if you’re planning on completing a good morning workout since you will probably get a bit sweaty.
There is some debate surrounding the topic of whether or not to eat before a morning workout. Many health and fitness advocates strongly suggest performing morning workouts in a fasted state in order to increase fat loss. However, this won’t work for everyone – especially if you’re unable to perform or last long in a fasted state, or you get too lightheaded.
In other words, fasted or fed workouts are about personal preference and individual reactions, so you can try it – but if it doesn’t seem to work, you should eat at least something before your morning workout.
Eating a big meal is a bad idea, because you’ll be stuffed, bloated and lethargic while you’re trying to exercise. Eat something small like a banana, some hard-boiled eggs, or some plain greek yogurt with a bit of granola.
Fasted or fed workouts are going to depend on the individual. The most important thing is that you do the workout, and that you get into the habit of a morning workout.
Ideas for A Good Morning Workout
If you want to get in the habit of starting your day with a good morning workout, here are a few things you can try.
As you get used to your new routine, it’s important to keep your expectations in check. Start slowly, that way you have a better chance of sticking with the habit. If you put too much pressure on yourself to get to the gym, go for a run, or do other types of high-intensity exercise before you have established the habit of exercising in the morning, you will be less likely to stick to it in the long term.
For the first couple of weeks, create a gentle routine that you can perform at home and challenge yourself to stick to it. You might consider investing in some light dumbbells and/or resistance bands if strength training is your goal, but they aren’t strictly necessary.
Every routine should begin with a good warm-up, but especially a morning routine after sleeping for six or more hours. Cat cows, toe touches, and other yoga poses such as downward-facing dogs are all good places to start. If you’re new to yoga, Yoga with Adriene is an excellent channel to subscribe to. She has an entire library of yoga flows, meditation and stretching routines that can easily be adapted to suit all abilities, as well as monthly challenges and an entire community of followers to help keep you accountable.
If you want to incorporate some cardio into your morning workout, go for a brisk walk (power-walking or walking uphill) or jog. These are both effective yet gentle ways to raise your heart rate first thing in the morning if you’re just starting out on your fitness journey. Try running or biking first thing in the morning if you’re looking for something more intense, or, if you need something gentler on your joints, try swimming or exercising on an elliptical machine.
As for strength training, there are several reasons why adding resistance to your morning workout can help you grow muscle. For one thing, levels of testosterone and growth hormone, which help your muscles grow, tend to be higher in the morning. You can take advantage of your own biology to get stronger muscles by working out early in the day. Squats, deadlifts, push-ups, dips, planks and chin-ups are full-body movements that work multiple major muscle groups at once. Use your own body weight or add weights (like dumbbells, plates or bands) for more resistance.
The Bottom Line
An exercise plan that has been tailored to your genetic strengths and weaknesses can help you yield better results. CircleDNA offers DNA tests that can help you and your fitness professional develop an effective workout plan. Simply take the DNA test and read your genetic fitness reports which includes your optimal workouts based on your DNA.
1. The Effects of Exercise on Food Intake and Hunger https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3761859/
2. Exercise and Fat Oxidation https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4703705/