Exercising in the morning may be able to help lower stress levels and lessen anxiety. Photo / 123RF
All exercise that challenges our bodies, is good and offers some level of benefit to our health, no matter what time of day it is performed. However, there are certain times of day that
have proven to offer an increased level of health benefits and that time is morning.
Ongoing studies back this up, revealing that in the field of “exercise timing” morning exercise is the real deal when it comes to Increased cognitive function and mental performance.
Research published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine reveals that morning exercise benefits the brain due to a boost in BDNF/brain-derived neurotropic factor. In other words, higher levels of the protein, BDNF were discovered in those who exercised in the morning compared to those that did not.
The study went on to prove that BDNF can also be stimulated into production by walking and actively breaking up prolonged sitting times during the day, even if only for a few minutes.
Brain Breaks, another study led by the “Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute and The University of Western Australia examined how to exercise timing affected the cognitive performance of 65 older healthy adults aged 55-80.”
The volunteers were divided into three groups, each with a different objective. Upon waking, the first group did nothing but sit the entire day without exercising. The second group sat for the initial hour, exercised for 30 minutes and then went on to sit for an additional 6.5 hours. The third group sat for the first hour and exercised for 30 minutes as well, however, this group did not sit for the remainder of the day. This third group got up and walked three minutes for every 30-minute interval of sitting time.
Once the study was complete, the researchers tested the study participants’ cognitive performance and measured their levels of the BDNF protein or brain-derived neurotropic factor.
The results continue to prove the positive impact that morning exercise provides us. Those that exercised in the morning, even for short periods of time, enjoyed profound results, scoring higher in focus/attention, planning/decision making, organising and prioritising than the inactive, sedentary volunteers.
Participants that split their day-long sitting time up with a three-minute or longer walking break for every 30-minute sitting period also experienced a brain boost. This group also performed better than the other two groups when it came to memory tests.
Although these study results pertain to adults aged 55-80, study author Michael Wheeler states he suspects that those younger than 55, using the same methods, would benefit as well.
Additional morning workout benefits:
Boost our fat-burning potential – Morning workouts provide us with the opportunity to work out on an empty stomach. Working out, with nothing to digest, helps boost our fat-burning ability by 20 per cent.
Build and tone muscles quicker – Anyone looking to build muscles/strength would benefit from morning exercise. According to the National Institute of Fitness and Sport, testosterone levels are highest in the morning, setting us up for great muscle building.
Stimulate endorphin flow – Early morning sweats do more than provide us with an extra boost of energy, they are responsible for our moods as well, rewarding us with a rush of endorphins, serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin. All these hormones work to promote happy, healthy, positive feelings.
Increased activity level – Exercising first thing, even before eating breakfast, is proving to be very beneficial regarding the amount of energy we have throughout the remainder of the day. More energy translates into a more focused and productive day. Why not start your day the exercise way?
Cortisol is high in the morning and paired with the endorphin hit that exercise offers, is the perfect pair to boost energy levels that last hours after a workout.
Lowers stress and lessons anxiety – Along with kicking in our pleasure and happy hormones, exercise decreases stress and anxiety levels. This helps us to socialise without fear, reducing feelings of loneliness and despair.
Deep, quality sleep –There is nothing worse than having to face a new day when we have not slept well. Our brains feel foggy, our moods are cranky, our productivity takes a serious hit, and our decision-making is slower and questionable.
Morning exercising helps us sleep better. Why? Because it increases our daily productivity (physical and mental) so that when we finally hit the sack, our body and our mind are tired and more readily fall into deep, quality sleep. We wake renewed and refreshed, ready to tackle the challenges and experience the joys that the new day offers.
All types of challenging exercise help to tire us out, but morning exercise gets us “off on the right foot” at the beginning of our day. Prioritising exercise by doing it first thing after waking, prevents sudden activities or flimsy excuses from getting in our way, weakening our resolve and sabotaging our efforts to get in shape.
Richard Branson, one of the most successful businessmen on the planet has this to say about morning workouts: “Over my 50 years in business, I have learned that if I rise early and exercise first, I can achieve so much more in a day and therefore in my life. It helps me sleep better and improves my focus and concentration. No matter where I am in the world, I wake up at around 5am and get moving which puts me in a great mind frame before getting down to business.”
A billionaire credits his morning workouts as his number one way of staying productive and healthy while maintaining a great work-life balance. Maybe it’s time we listened.
A good morning sweat is the real deal, the full package, empowered to change our brains for the better, increase our daily productivity, boost our happiness hormones and help us to socialise comfortably. If it works for Richard Branson, it can work for us too!
* Carolyn Hansen is co-owner of Anytime Fitness.