Working Out in the Morning: 5 Reasons Why Smart People Hit the Gym Early

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By Laura Berlinsky-Schine

READ MORE: Productivity, Health, Mental health, Time management

You probably know there are a lot of benefits to working out: you'll improve your health, strengthen your body, and feel better mentally and physically, to name just a few. But with your hectic work schedule, personal commitments, and massive to-do list, it may be impossible to fit exercise in during your lunch break, and you’re simply too exhausted to do anything but fall into bed and go to sleep at the end of a long day in the office. So how can you make time for workouts while juggling the rest of your busy life?

Morning workouts could be the key to your success. And there are a lot of benefits to exercising early in the day! Here are five of our favorites:

1. You’ll burn more calories during the day.

You’re probably aware that you’re burning plenty of calories when you’re actively exercising, but did you know that you continue to burn calories at a faster rate than when you’re at rest long after you’ve finished your workout? This is known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), the oxygen intake required to return your body to homeostasis. Keep in mind that your EPOC depends on the intensity of your exercise, rather than the duration, so high-intensity aerobic exercise, even at short intervals, and weight lifting have more of an impact on your metabolism than longer-interval, low-level cardio.

Another important factor in improving your morning metabolism is eating a nutritious breakfast regularly. Something filled with complex carbohydrates, such as a fruit and whole grains, is the best way to go, especially if you're trying to be weight-conscious. (To hammer that point home: Don't skip breakfast!) It's especially important to eat breakfast when you workout in the morning, since you need energy for exercise.

2. You’ll sleep better.

Medical professionals say that exercise can help you fall asleep more quickly and staying asleep for longer intervals. Morning is a good time for sleep-boosting exercise, because exercising too close to bedtime can overstimulate you and make it more difficult to fall asleep. While this isn’t true for everyone, morning workouts can be better for sleep in general, because exercise raises your body temperature, before allowing it to drop and trigger drowsiness a few hours later.

3. You’ll develop a routine.

You probably have a busy work and personal schedule, and may find it difficult to fit in exercise. Scheduling your workout in the early morning before you head into the office gives you back time. Since you wouldn’t normally be working in the early morning anyway, you won’t have to bump another commitment to accommodate it. Of course, it may take some getting used to, since you’ll need to adjust to waking up earlier, but once you make it a routine, you may find that exercising first thing will give you some consistency that may be lacking in other aspects of your life.

You also won’t be able to make as many excuses to avoid exercising, since your workout isn’t interrupting another activity. While you may want to make those excuses now, later, once you start to see results, you’ll thank yourself for the push!

4. You’ll make better choices later in the day.

If you start the day with a healthy activity like exercising, you may be more likely to make better fitness decisions, such as eating nutritiously, for the rest of the day, since you’ll be more conscious of your fitness routine and committed to improving your overall health. In other words, making the conscious decision to start the day by doing something good for you—that may be difficult for you to do—will set you on a healthy path for the rest of the day.

5. You’ll feel better overall.

Endorphins are very real and very pleasant. When you exercise, your body releases these chemicals, and they interact with receptors in your brain trigger positive feelings and reduce your perception of pain. That’s why you might experience a “runner’s high,” or feeling of euphoria, after you exercise. Feeling good is a great way to start your day! You’ll also feel like you’ve already accomplished something, since you’ve gotten your workout over early in the day.

Regular exercise can improve your overall mood and boost self-esteem. In fact, many psychologists recommend routine exercise for people with depression and anxiety for that very reason.

“But I love to sleep!” you’re crying internally. “I’m just not a morning person. How can I possibly give up the snooze button?” Here are six tips to motivate you to wake up and starting working out:

1. Prepare the night before.

If you’re heading to the gym, pack your bag, so you’re ready to go as soon as you get up. If you’re going for a jog, lay out your workout clothes and running shoes, so you can change and be out the door once you get up. If you find them comfortable, you could even sleep in your gym clothes.

2. Set an alarm — and keep it far away from your bed.

That way, you’ll have to get up to turn it off. If you know it’s extra difficult to get yourself out of bed in the morning, set two alarms.

3. Drink a glass of cold water.

You dehydrate when you sleep, so the water will rehydrate you and gear you up for your workout.

4. Go to bed early.

That way, you’ll be able to fit in a solid night’s sleep (that’s 7-8 hours for most adults). While it may be difficult to force yourself to go to sleep early at first, once you do it enough times, it will become routine.

5. Eat a small snack.

A piece of fruit will get your energy up. Don’t overdo it, though; if you eat too much before exercising, you might get sick or cramp up.

6. Listen to energizing music.

A favorite song will motivate you. Make sure you pick something lively and upbeat!

Once you make morning workouts part of your routine, they will become a habit. Not only will you stop dreading them, but you may even find that you enjoy adding them to your day. You'll probably find additional benefits that we haven't mentioned here and see a general improvement on your day-to-day life.

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