It’s a dilemma that’s been haunting fitness enthusiasts for a long time. What is the best time to work out? Is it in the morning, when the birds are chirping, and everyone's saying their morning prayers? Or is it in the evening, when you're wide awake and done with the major part of your day?
We’re here to answer this age-old question. There are studies out there that show many benefits of morning exercises.
So, you wake up, and you're all motivated to work out right out of bed. How often does that happen? Generally speaking, the success of a morning exercise depends on whether or not you’re a morning person. How do you know you're a morning person? Well, are you all annoyed, irritated, and too lazy to even cook breakfast for yourself in the morning? If the answer is yes, then, my friend, you are definitely not a morning person! The reason for that is relatively simple; sleep puts your body in a rested state. At this point, all bodily functions are at the lowest, meaning you would have to find a better, energy-boosting alternative that will kick-start the entire system. In this case, nothing beats morning exercises for weight loss.
However, an early morning workout does have many benefits that you can’t get with an evening workout routine. A few benefits of morning workouts include:
- You get less distracted because the tasks of the day haven’t set in yet. You're not going to sideline your workout because you were caught up in a meeting or have to study for a test the next day. It's the morning, and the day's stress hasn't sunk in yet, so you can easily work out in the morning without getting distracted.
- Your gym is more likely to be emptied early in the morning, so you'll have more equipment for yourself. You won't have to wait for ages for a guy to get off the treadmill or to use certain other equipment. While it may still be busy in the morning, people would generally be on a routine and in a hurry to get out of the gym and be where they need to be.
- A morning exercise improves sleep! You’ll get into bed sooner if you know you have to hit the gym early the next day. Lack of sleep can increase hormones that cause overeating. Therefore, this morning workout also prevents you from overeating, which is a very vital step in your journey towards fitness.
- Morning exercisers tend to develop a positive start towards the day, and working out gives you a sense of accomplishment, equipping you with the confidence and head-start you need to cover the tasks of the day.
- You have a higher chance of developing consistency (1). A morning workout changes the entire clocking of the brain. Since this is a completely natural energy booster, you will have plenty of energy to perform better for the rest of the day. Because of how good it will start to feel, the body will rewire the brain to crave more exercise, which will make you more consistent.
- By kick-starting your metabolism with an early morning workout, you give your body enough time to process all the fat than it normally would without any exercise at all. Since metabolism works a lot slower when we sleep, this type of exercise can be extremely beneficial for shedding a few pounds.
The Challenges You Are Bound to Face
Starting an exercise routine in the morning is never easy. At first, you won’t have enough motivation to get out of bed. Plus, your airways are constricted, and the lungs are functioning a lot slower than they are in the evening. Therefore, it’s very difficult for many people to start this routine.
If you want to see some effective results and still overcome these challenges, the best thing you can do is start with an easy morning exercise. Instead of running first thing in the morning, start with stretches, then do aerobic, moderate, or flexibility exercises (2). That way, you won’t overwork your already stiff muscles. On the contrary, you will give them enough time to wake up and start working again. As the body slowly adapts (3) to the new physical activity, feel free to increase the exercise intensity.
Best Morning Exercises for Weight Loss
As seen throughout this post, morning exercises have many advantages as well as several challenges. But, if you’re planning to start exercising in the morning you’re probably wondering about the best approach. This is particularly the case for persons who want to slim down or maintain their weight loss. Sometimes not knowing what exercises to perform can kill motivation to work out in the first place. Since you don’t want that, we're going to focus on some useful exercises and physical activities that can help you lose weight and keep it off.
The importance of walking is largely underestimated, but it’s one of the best forms of physical activity you can. Walking is a good morning exercise overall and it also works for weight loss and its maintenance. What makes walking convenient is the fact it’s easy and low-impact. For that reason, it’s suitable for persons with low fitness levels and people who wouldn’t be able to go through a full body workout before their stamina improves.
So, what to expect from walking when it comes to weight loss? Well, a person who weighs 155lbs (70kg) can burn around 175 calories per 30 minutes of walking at a moderate pace of 4mph (6.4km/h) (4). A person who’s got 185lbs (83kg) can lose 189 calories per 30-minute walk while a person weighing 125lbs (56kg) may lose up to 135 calories.
Generally speaking, not everyone loses the same number of calories when walking. The amount of calories you burn depends on your weight, speed, and pace. People who weigh more also tend to burn more calories.
Evidence confirms that walking 50 to 70 minutes three times a week can decrease body fat and waist circumference by 1.5% and 1.1 inches respectively. Scientists explain walking exercise provides a safe and effective lifestyle strategy against abdominal obesity and insulin resistance (5).
Besides weight loss, the benefits of regular walking can also extend to decreased LDL (bad) cholesterol, increased HDL (good) cholesterol, improved mood, and healthier blood pressure (6). Morning walks are particularly useful. Taking a walk in the morning is a great way to start your day with activity, but it’s not vigorous exercise. So, even if you don’t have enough energy after waking up, walking is still something you can do.
Benefits of morning walks also include natural energy boost, improved mental health, better heart health, reduced risk of diabetes, decreased muscle and joint pain, just to name a few.
Biking is a fun, but incredibly useful morning workout to lose weight or maintain weight in a healthy range. The faster your speed, the more calories you can expect to burn. That happens because the body uses more energy to go faster.
So how many calories can you lose when biking? Well, biking at a moderate speed (12-13.9 mph) allows a 155-lb person to burn 298 calories in 30 minutes. That same person would burn 372 calories when biking at a faster rate (14-15.9 mph).
Indeed, biking is a great type of physical activity but it’s even more important than you think. As a type of cardio, biking helps you not only burn calories but also increases your stamina or endurance, especially in leg muscles. Biking is particularly useful for your thighs.
While you can go biking any time of the day, mornings are more useful because you get to avoid the traffic.
3. Running or Jogging
When it comes to weight loss, running or jogging is one of the best things you can do, regardless of the time of the day.
Successful weight loss requires burning more calories than you consume. To achieve that, you need to do cardio. Running and joking are the perfect types of cardio to lose weight or maintain your weight loss. While most people use running and jogging terms interchangeably, they’re not the same thing. Jogging is usually 4-6mph, while running is a faster pace of about 6mph.
Jogging and running have the potential to burn harmful visceral fat, i.e. belly fat. This type of fat is generally stubborn and difficult to get rid of. As a person gains weight and stores more fat, it wraps their internal organs and increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems (7, 8).
As walking and biking, these activities are easy to incorporate into your morning routine. To lose weight or maintain it in a healthy range, you should start by running or jogging for 20 to 30 minutes about three to four times a week.
4. Interval Training
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a term that describes the workouts with short bursts of intense exercise followed by short recovery periods. It's a full body workout! A typical HIIT workout lasts 10 to 30 minutes, but a person has the opportunity to burn a lot of calories.
Significant calorie-burning effects and short workout duration make interval training a great option for morning physical activity. For example, a study of nine active men found HIIT burned 25% to 30% more calories per minute than other types of exercises (9). Basically, with interval training, you can burn more calories with less time working out.
The best thing about HIIT is that you can perform it through any activity you want. Options range from running to biking, jumping, or other exercises. For instance, you can run as fast as you can for 30 seconds, then run at a slower pace for a few minutes, and repeat the same process for 10 to 30 minutes.
HIIT calls for strong willpower and patience. While it may be tricky to start with an advanced HIIT at first, you can always go from basics such as running and take it from there. With time, interval training can increase your endurance and boost energy levels, alongside calorie-burning. You can use these benefits, e.g. higher energy levels, throughout the day if you exercise in the morning.
5. Weight Training
Weight loss is not just about cardio. Weight training is equally important. A person who weighs 155lbs can lose about 112 calories per 30 minutes of weight training.
This type of physical activity helps a person build strength and promote muscle growth. As a result, it increases resting metabolic rate (RMR) (13). Reminder: RMR refers to the number of calories the body burns at rest. One study found 11 minutes of strength-based training three times a week can increase metabolic rate by 7.4%. This increase is equivalent to losing an additional 125 calories a day (14).
Probably the best reason to do weight training in the morning is the fact your body may continue to lose calories several hours post-workout.
If you’re the type of person who wants more dynamic workouts for an instant pick-me-up in the morning, kickboxing is a great option. Not only does kickboxing burn fat, but also increases your muscle strength. Kickboxing training can improve upper body muscle power, aerobic power, flexibility, anaerobic fitness, and other parameters. For that reason, it’s an effective lifestyle change for enhancing physical fitness (15).
You don’t have to go to the gym early in the morning to train kickboxing. You can do it in your home if you have a few basic pieces of equipment. The exact course of the training depends on you. Kickboxing can also serve as an effective strategy to increase mental health and function.
If you have a pool, starting your day swimming is a great way to slim down or maintain your weight loss. But, if you don’t have a pool you may want to sign up to the gym that has one.
A 155-lb-person burns up to 233 calories per 30 minutes of swimming. The number of calories you burn depends on how you swim. That same person would burn 298 calories doing the backstroke, 409 doing butterfly, 372 doing breaststroke, and 372 calories treading water.
Swimming for 60 minutes about three times a week can successfully decrease body fat, improve your flexibility, and lower several markers of heart disease including blood triglycerides and total cholesterol (16).
Compared to other types of cardio, swimming is a low-impact activity. That means swimming is easy on your joints, doesn’t cause too much pressure on them, and proves to be particularly useful for persons who tend to experience joint pain.
Swimming in the morning is equally beneficial for your state of mind as well as weight loss. It’s the perfect opportunity to support your weight loss, but also strengthen your mental health in order to function optimally throughout the day.
Other Activities You Can Do
Besides the above-mentioned exercises and activities, you may also want to do the following in the morning:
- Stretching exercises
The exact method of exercise depends entirely on you. Some people find it easier to get ready, go to the gym, and head straight to work from there. On the flip side, others prefer exercising at home or outside then going to work. There is no right or wrong answer – it all depends on your personality.
Either way, if you’re motivated and you stick to whatever routine works best for you, success will definitely come your way.
What this means is that you need to be consistent with your workout to lose weight, irrespective of the timing. Set monthly or weekly workout goals and try your very best to reach them. Also, remember, procrastination is your WORST enemy!