There are some serious perks to starting your day with a sweat session, rather than ending it with one.
The absolute best time to work out is always going to be whenever works for you. After all, working out at 9 p.m. beats skipping it every single time because you slept through your alarm clock. But starting your day with a good sweat does have some serious advantages over leaving it for after work. Here are eight benefits of morning workouts that just might convince you to start exercising first thing.
1. You’ll consume fewer unnecessary calories.
It’s logical to think that burning 500 calories in the morning could backfire by making you think you have a free pass to make up for the lost calories—and then some. But researchers from Brigham Young University found exercising in the morning can actually make food seem less appealing. For the study, published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers analyzed the brain activity of women as they looked at pictures of food and flowers, which served as the control. Women who’d exercised for 45 minutes in the morning were less fired up about the tasty images than those who skipped the workout. What’s more, the morning exercisers didn’t consume more food than the other group over the course of the day.
2. You’ll be more active all day long.
Getting that morning workout in also inspires you to keep moving throughout the rest of the day. The Bringham Young University researchers also found in the same study that people who work out in the morning end up being more active in general.
3. You’ll burn more fat.
To eat breakfast or not to eat breakfast before exercising? The question’s been argued in health and fitness circles forever. And while there are certainly benefits to fueling up before a workout—it’ll keep you going harder and longer—a 2013 British Journal of Nutrition study found exercising on an empty stomach can burn as much as 20 percent more fat than when a meal is eaten first.
4. You’ll lower your blood pressure.
In a study out of Appalachian State University, researchers asked study participants to hit the treadmills for 30 minutes at three different times of day: 7 a.m., 1 p.m., and 7 p.m. Those who worked out in the morning reduced their blood pressure by 10 percent, a dip that continued all day and lowered even more (to 25 percent) at night. Most heart attacks occur in the early morning, so the researchers speculated a.m. exercise may serve as a preventative measure.
5. You’ll sleep better at night.
Ever book an 8 p.m. class and feel like your body was too revved up to fall asleep afterward? You’re not just imagining the connection. Better sleep is one of the many well-studied benefits of morning workouts. The National Sleep Foundation says while evening workouts can boost the body’s temperature and stimulate the body, which can make falling asleep more difficult, working out in the morning leads to deeper, longer, and higher-quality sleep when you finally hit the pillow 15 or so hours later.
6. You’ll protect yourself from diabetes.
Hitting the gym in the morning on an empty stomach has also been shown to protect against glucose intolerance and insulin resistance, which are trademarks of type 2 diabetes, according to a study published in the Journal of Physiology. During the six-week study, participants who exercised without eating first, compared to those who ate carbohydrates before and during the workout, showed improved glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, on top of not gaining any weight.
7. You’ll build muscle more efficiently.
When you wake up in the morning, your testosterone levels are at their peak, according to the National Institute for Fitness & Sport. That makes morning the ideal time to knock out your strength-training workouts since your body is in prime muscle-building mode.
8. You’ll tap into the health benefits tied to exercising.
A recent study published in Health Psychology found that the most consistent exercisers are those who make it a habit. Waking up early and heading to the gym before the rest of the world needs something from you means you’re more likely to exercise regularly. It’s a lot easier to blow off a workout after work, say because a friend is unexpectedly in town or something comes up at work to derail you. Setting an early-morning alarm helps you be consistent, which means you’ll tap into all those health benefits—including increased immunity, longevity, and a better mood—that go along with regular exercise.