The alarm clock blares, startling you from a dream-filled sleep.
You unhurriedly make your way over to shut off that dreaded noise. At a snail’s pace, over the course of the following hour or two, you make your way from the door of your home to the door of your car. Barely awake and not 100 percent responsive at this point, you drive to work where a demanding day awaits you.
Feelings of lethargy and grogginess are common among anyone familiar with the above-mentioned routine. Rather than improve these feelings through some natural, positive and health-focused approach, more often than not, people succumb to the use of caffeine to get their “up” feeling in the morning.
Recent commentary within the medical community suggests that physical activity in the morning can be beneficial to one’s physical health and mental alertness. A study published by the British Journal of Nutrition found that working out in the morning on an empty stomach allows for 20 percent more body fat to be burned.
While physical results are the goal for some, they are only the beginning in a long list of both physical and mental benefits associated with an active morning routine.
1) If you don’t do it now, you may not do it at all.
Cedric Bryant, PhD, chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise in San Diego explains that, “Research suggests in terms of performing a consistent exercise habit, individuals who exercise in the morning tend to do it better. The thinking is that they get their exercise in before other time pressures interfere.”
This isn’t a ground-breaking point to most of us. Procrastination is a real thing and we’re all susceptible to it. Putting off exercise (or any other goal for that matter) makes room for excuses down the road and, more often than not, gives reason for subsequent excuses and delays in action.
Make room in your schedule for consistent goals to be met. Set times, dates and expectations for yourself. More importantly, reward yourself. Physical activity will produce results.
2) Your mind will be sharper and so will you.
Arriving to work groggy, negative and sluggish is a far-too-common sight; all hands on deck, no words spoken, as employees watch the coffee drip into one mug after another. Morning activity can provide for mental stimulation, preparing the mind and body for the work day ahead.
Dr. John Ratey, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical University speaks to this point, suggesting that regular exercise can improve mental function and sharpness.
“When you exercise and move around, you are using more brain cells. Using more brain cells turns on the genes to make BNDF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor).”
When you exercise, you stimulate brain regions involved in memory function and, in turn, releases the chemical BNDF.
3) Allow yourself some consistent “me time” and feel accomplished as a result.
While suggesting and appreciating these incentives for early exercise/activity is easy, the part that may be difficult is application. Find a reason to exercise in your life.
Grant yourself this opportunity and take advantage of it. It can be helpful to think of it as killing two birds with one stone. If you find that you don’t have enough me-time in your life and need some time to think, use this opportunity to improve your self-reflection and physical activity at the same time. If you’d like to spend some more time with a friend, neighbour or loved one, invite them to join you on a morning walk, run or workout.
Many people put off working out toward the end of the day and, as the clock ticks closer to that time, our motivation is often drained (and excuses accumulated). Allocating a block of time every morning for this activity removes the after-work anxiety to work out from your equation. No matter what you choose to do after work, you can rest assured throughout the day (and after) that you’ve accomplished something that morning.
4) Avoid Nature Deficit Disorder and explore the world around you.
If you feel that you’ve spent too much time inside—hunched in front of a computer, watching TV or washing dishes—take this time to absorb the world around you. Exercising, or even just being outside, provides for an environment that’s healthy and naturally stimulating.
Dr. Ratey says that, “We are meant to be out there. The more different things we do and see, the better.”
If a full-fledged workout isn’t your cup of tea in the morning, that shouldn’t discourage you. It’s something to be worked up to.
The simple practice of stepping outside, taking a walk and breathing the fresh air in the morning can be equally stimulating and beneficial to your health.
The contemporary wellness trend known as Earthing suggests that placing your body in direct contact with the Earth’s surface (i.e. going barefoot) allows your body to absorb the earth surface’s nearly limitless supply of free electrons. Doing so helps to neutralize harmful free radicals that, studies suggest, are responsible for health ailments including inflammation.
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Author: David Gelfand
Assistant Editor: JoJo Rowden / Editor: Catherine Monkman