Mornings are my favourite time to train! Yes, I am one of those annoying morning people, but exercise has helped me become that way. It’s almost like the body wakes up expecting to move and rewards you when it does.
The best time to exercise isn’t just about personal preference, though. Science also says there are some incredible perks to an AM workout. From speeding up fat loss to better quality sleep, morning exercise is a great investment in your health.
But I didn’t exactly need a study to tell me that. I’m a massive fan of working out before breakfast – so much so that I have converted an army of my friends and clients into early birds! At least, I’d like to believe I have.
Not convinced to train at the crack of dawn? Keep reading – these perks will have you lacing up your sneakers first thing tomorrow!
7 Benefits of Morning Workouts (According to Science)
Here are seven researched-backed benefits of working out in the morning:
1. Enhances Fat-Burning & Weight Loss
Exercising in a fasting stage increases fat-burning and weight loss as the body uses fat for fuel. In fact, one UK study found that pre-breakfast workouts burned double the fat compared to exercising after breakfast!
Training before breakfast means it’s been about 8 to 12 hours since your last meal, so you have less sugar (glycogen) in your system. Your body uses up energy in three forms while training: first is muscle glycogen, then blood sugar, and lastly, the fat stored in the body.
You will not start burning fat until your body is glycogen-depleted. When you wake up and exercise before eating, the body kicks into fat-burning mode much faster. Working out before breakfast also stimulates fat oxidation, helping the process along.
In other words: if weight loss is your goal, morning training rocks!
2. Boosts Metabolism for up to 14 Hours
Exercise increases your metabolism for up to 14 hours, so a morning workout boosts your metabolic rate all day!
As the body recovers from exercise, the metabolism boost means the body burns food for fuel more quickly, and fat-burning is also enhanced. The long-lasting effect means calories from your post-training meals are burnt up in exercise recovery rather than stored in your fat cells.
Research suggests morning exercise may boost metabolism more than an evening workout – so if you’re keen to supercharge your metabolic rate, try exercising in the A.M.
Morning exercise also reduces appetite later in the day, which can be handy if you’re watching your caloric intake.
3. Gives You More Energy for the Day
One of the best things about morning workouts is the natural energy boost it gives you for the day ahead. Part of this is the post-workout metabolism increase, upping our energy levels for up to 14 hours.
Exercise also gives our cardiovascular system a kickstart; as we take in more oxygen, we tend to feel more energised. This may be why morning exercisers are more active later in the day, taking more steps than evening exercisers.
Incidental exercise is great for your body, and feeling more energised helps choose the stairs over the lift!
4. Improves Mood & Cognitive Performance
An A.M. workout provides plenty of mental perks, helping us get the most out of life. Exercising before work prepares us for a productive day, with improved memory, focus and learning ability.
The endorphin boost from exercise helps to manage stress throughout the day. It also balances hormones to regulate our digestive and immune systems, making you feel healthier.
Plus, a pre-work workout gives you a massive sense of accomplishment! I always feel amazing after my morning workouts and take a more positive approach to the day.
5. Best for Exercising Consistently
When it comes to the psychology of exercise, working out in the morning helps make it a consistent habit. We’re less likely to have clashing commitments in the morning, which helps build a long-lasting fitness routine.
I’ve spent many years working in, owning, living and breathing gyms – and I assure you that morning exercisers are the most consistent and motivated long-term! When people commit to training in the A.M., they stick to it day by day, week by week, and year by year.
Generally, exercising before work means we’re less distracted, including by emails and notifications that grab our attention. Plus, we’re hopefully feeling mentally and physically refreshed, so we can push ourselves further and reap bigger rewards from training.
Working out in the morning also helps avoid the heat, making outdoor exercise more feasible year-round. Plus, you won’t have to worry about fitting in a gym session after work or school – it’s already been taken care of!
Admittedly winter poses a few barriers for morning training, namely darkness and chilly temperatures, making it harder to get out of bed. But as I tell clients, the fastest way to warm up is to exercise, so dig deep and get it done!
6. Helps with Morning Sun Exposure
Getting some morning sunlight is fantastic for regulating our body clock – another great reason to get active outdoors before breakfast. However, studies also show a surprising link between morning light exposure, BMI and weight.
A study by North Western University found that the earlier people were exposed to bright light, the lower their BMI (body mass index). Those with most of their sunlight exposure later in the day had a higher BMI – independent of diet or exercise.
The study suggests not getting enough bright light in the morning destabilises our body clock, leading to metabolic decline and weight gain. One more reason to get your vitamin D fix early in the day!
7. Regulates Your Sleep Schedule
Morning exercise is the most beneficial in regulating our sleep-wake cycles. First, sunlight helps reset our body clock and transition to wakefulness in the morning.
A 2011 study from the Appalachian State University pinpoints 7am as the best time to exercise for better sleep. The research showed morning workouts reduced night-time blood pressure and improved sleep quality among participants.
Studies also show that working out in the A.M. prompts the body to release melatonin (the sleep hormone) earlier that night, helping you fall asleep on time. The effect is so powerful that it can transform ‘owls’ into early birds!
In other words, if you’d love to magically transform into a morning person, give working out before breakfast a shot.
How to Motivate Yourself for Morning Workouts
Keen to get the benefits of morning exercise? Because of these golden reasons, I am pumped to convince every one of you to train first thing in the morning for five days straight.
At best, after you successfully finish this challenge, your body will adjust to the morning routine and crave an A.M. sweat session. At worst, you will have trained a few extra days when you usually might have hit the snooze button.
I know it’s hard, especially when the weather cools down, but discipline and perseverance are all it takes to dedicate yourself to a morning workout habit.
Here are my best strategies for sticking to a morning workout:
- Prepare your gym bag and leave it near the front door. This means going the whole nine yards: fill up your water bottle, pack your Airpods, and decide on the next day’s work clothes.
- Don’t put your alarm clock on your bedside table – that’s easily accessible. Place your phone or clock away from the bed, so when it goes off, you have to literally get out of bed.
- Update your workout playlist every month or so. New music in your ears will motivate you to get moving!
- Convince a friend, partner, sibling, or neighbour to participate in the challenge. You’ll have a workout buddy to keep you motivated and accountable.
Remember – the change starts in your bedroom, under that warm and cosy blanket. If you can resist the urge to hit the snooze button, get out of bed on time, tie those shoelaces, walk out of the house in pride, and do all this before the sun comes out, you have already half-won the battle.
My top tip to prepare for a morning workout: go to bed EARLY (like 9-9:30 pm). If you can’t manage an early bedtime, try kick-starting a morning training routine first. When your fatigued body sinks into bed at night, you’ll be dozing off ASAP!
Don’t give up if you realistically cannot fit in a morning workout in your schedule. Ultimately, you must work with your body’s natural circadian rhythms and schedule around any existing commitments.
Working out in the afternoon or evening won’t make or break your results. The best time to train is the time that consistently works for you! In other words: work out at any hour of the day, and you’ll still be a winner.