Fitness Tips

Here’s What Happens To Your Body When You Get Up and Exercise in the Morning

Photo: Getty Images/dusanpetkovic
Whenever someone tells me that they're a "morning workout person," I feel like they're actually admitting they're a superhero. Waking up with the sun to get sweaty is no small feat, and if you can muster the dedication it takes not to hit snooze on your alarm, you'll be glad you did. Apart from the satisfaction that arises from exercising and showering before most of the world has gotten out of bed, there are also other major benefits of morning workouts (for your physical and mental health).

"The best thing about working out in the morning is that you've got it out of the way and you don't have to think about it for the rest of your day," says Tatiana Lampa, NASM, a corrective exercise specialist and trainer. "Working out at night may be difficult—especially after work if a meeting or commitment comes up." Plus: Since the end of daylight saving time means pitch-black darkness by 5 p.m., working out in the a.m. is also your best bet for catching some sunlight.

Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of morning workouts. But take heart, dear reader: No matter how or when you move, you'll still be reaping the benefits of exercise. So choose what time works for you—whether that means waking up with the birds, sneaking out for a lunchtime walk, or closing down the gym.

5 benefits of morning workouts, according to a trainer

1. You'll feel more alert during your workout

Fun fact: Your body naturally produces more of the stress hormone "cortisol" in the morning. This makes you feel more alert and primed for your workout. In the evening, your body produces less cortisol, so it may be harder to convince your brain that it's time to go, go, go.

2. You'll feel happier (thanks, endorphins, serotonin, and norphenylephrine)

Endorphins, serotonin, and norphenylephrine—the happiness-boosting neurotransmitters produced by exercise—are great any time of day, but they're especially game-changing on, you know, Monday... Tuesday... and Wednesday mornings. (Every morning, TBH.) "While meditation, laughing, or eating chocolate do raise endorphin levels, they don't raise them as much as exercising intensely for an hour or more," J. Kip Matthews, PhD, previously told Well+Good. Go for a power walk, hop on the treadmill, or bike around your city in the morning, and you'll be walking on sunshine all day long.

Kickstart those happiness neurotransmitters with this HIIT workout:

3. You'll help your heart do its job

Research indicates that early workouts may also benefit those with high blood pressure (HBP). "There are studies saying if you have HBP, there is a favorable HBP change when working out in the morning versus at night," says Lampa. The 2019 study Lampa references was conducted by the American Heart Association (AHA), and studied women and men between the ages of 55 and 80. The research also found that it may be even more beneficial to combine your early-bird workouts with frequent, brief morning walks. So keep that in mind.

4. You'll make working out a habit

The rules of habit sticking say that if you want to create a new habit, it's best to combine it with an old, established one. Since most of our life-long habits take place in the morning (think: drinking coffee, brushing your teeth, washing your face, etc.), it's also easier to squeeze in a workout then. For example: You may decide that you're going to charge your wearable right next to your toothbrush, so you can easily strap it on and head out for your morning jog. This also takes a lot of overthinking and decision fatigue out of the equation because you know you're going to get it in right after you've taken care of your oral hygiene, period.

5. You may get better sleep

Remember that cortisol we talked about earlier? Well, one downside of working out at night is that exercise—and particularly moderate to high-intensity exercise—spikes your cortisol levels. While this can be useful for helping your feel alert and ready to go in the morning, it could backfire in the evening and cause trouble sleeping. However, research is conflicting here, and some studies hold that—so long as you finish your workout 90 minutes before bed—you should sleep soundly.

Getting up and at 'em in the morning may also help your circadian rhythms, the natural sleep-wake cycle that tells you when it's time to get up and when it's time to turn in. Exposing yourself to sunshine early in the morning (with SPF on, of course) sets your clock to the correct time. "Your circadian rhythm relies heavily on light to help it understand day versus night so it can send signals to your body to produce melatonin, which helps it achieve better-quality sleep," Kalle Simpson, sleep expert and founder of the company Night, previously told Well+Good. Plus, there's something kind of special about early morning sunlight, right?

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