The Benefits of Early Morning Exercise

Who doesn’t love the idea of being an early riser? You’re up before sunrise, into the clinic, Pilates class done, and then home in time for a quick shower and breakfast before work.
But when the alarm goes off at 5.30am, there’s easy temptation to stay under the doona. So how can you motivate yourself to get up and going before the crack of dawn? Is there any additional benefit to exercise in the morning, as opposed to late evening after work? If you’re looking to decrease stress, increase quality of sleep and boost your energy levels then read on.

We all know the importance of a good night’s sleep. But we don’t often associate the connection between exercise and sleep behaviours. A study in the US from Appalachian State University found participants who exercised early in the morning had increased levels of mental alertness and felt more energised than their evening counterparts. The same study looked at participant’s sleeping patterns. It found participants who exercised regularly at 7am or earlier, reduced their blood pressure by an average of 10% which carried through the remainder of the day. They also had an average 25% dip in blood pressure at night, slept longer and had better quality sleep cycles than those participants who exercised later in the day. Morning movers are also at an advantage over their evening counterparts as some forms of high intensity exercise 2-3 hours before bedtime is known to disrupt sleep. Simply said, the early risers were more energised during the day, and slept better at night.

One of the most important benefits of exercise, is the role it plays with our Endocrine (Hormonal) System. Our Endocrine system is responsible for the regulation of stress hormones, appetite control and immune function. The primary hormone responsible for stress is cortisol. Cortisol is secreted from the adrenal gland and is known for increasing heart rate & blood pressure, storing fat, increasing appetite, breaking down muscle tissue and suppressing immune function. We can’t always remove the factors that cause stress, but we can control how we respond to these triggers. It’s commonly known that exercise increases our endorphins. Endorphins are released from the pituitary gland and are commonly known as that ‘rush’ of energy and satisfaction post exercise. The effect of endorphins can counteract the effects of cortisol, by decreasing appetite, and reducing tension & anxiety. Endorphins also interact with the receptors in our brain that control our perception of pain, which is why exercise is known to improve our moods. Making time for exercise in the morning, means we feel these benefits throughout the day, when we need them most.

Morning exercises are also at a greater advantage as testosterone levels are typically higher in the morning than they are in the evening. Testosterone is essential for optimal bone health, as well as being responsible for muscle growth and health. Exercising in the morning means you are using this natural fluctuation of testosterone to your advantage.

As we move past holidays and summer social events, setting goals for the year ahead becomes more crucial. We are often setting intentions to improve our physical and mental health, without the proper commitment or motivation to ensure these goals are met. Making time for a morning workout means you are setting aside time at the start of your day, ensuring that the rest of your day is free for other responsibilities. With any goal, consistency is key. Why not set yourself a new goal for the year, and see why the early birds really do get the worm!