So… you mean, rolling out of bed, brushing my teeth, and sprinting out the door isn't the key to establishing a longevity-boosting morning routine? *She resists blurting out loud mid-interview.* Spoiler: The healthy aging expert suggests that, respectfully, no. Ahead, his top four science-backed tips for setting your day up for success.
- Reuben Chen, MD, board-certified physician specializing in sports medicine and pain management
The ideal morning routine for boosting longevity, according to a doctor
1. Prep your body—both physically and mentally—before tackling your to-do list
Rather than hopping on your phone before you’ve even had a chance to wipe away the gunk in your eyelashes, Dr. Chen says you should focus on prepping your body for the day. “A good morning routine should have some mental and physical aspects to it, with a focus on getting your mind and body ready for the day. Yes, instead of answering emails and getting swamped by your inbox,” Dr. Chen says.
“Too many people wake up everyday with a barrage of chores and responsibilities that end up dictating the flow of their mornings. It’s better to ease into your day and take a little time for yourself."
—Reuben Chen, MD, board-certified sports medicine physician and pain management expert
For him, this means meditating in the morning for about 10 to 15 minutes, which the doctor says helps give him a sense of calmness, lessens his anxiety, and helps him focus more easily throughout the day.
After meditating, Dr. Chen takes on what he refers to as "some form of personal study"—time to self-reflect. To that end, he strongly encourages making time for tackling a self-improvement task. “Whether it’s self-help, learning a new language, or some kind of ritual to improve your mind. Here, I follow up with journal writing,” Dr. Chen suggests.
After he’s prepped and primed his mind, Dr. Chen aims to incorporate at least 30 minutes of exercise. “Either cardio or weightlifting with a few minutes of stretching. Some of these ideas were inspired by The Miracle Morning, which is an interesting book I recommend to anyone interested in creating a good start for their day," he notes.
2. Don’t forget to have a hearty breakfast
Finding time to make, let alone savor, a hearty breakfast can be challenging. However, Dr. Chen says it’s imperative for healthy aging. “I tend to get fired up in the mornings by consuming foods that are high in protein and unsaturated fats, such as eggs, avocado, and peanut butter, because they provide a good source of nutrition and steady energy throughout the day. I also try to avoid foods that are high in sugar and simple carbohydrates because they can cause a blood sugar spike,” he says.
Dr. Chen's go-to breakfast recipe is deliciously simple: Eggs cooked in olive oil and salsa alongside whole wheat toast with a peanut butter shmear. “I also like to drink non-dairy milk or an electrolyte beverage with that meal to stay hydrated.”
3. Addressing hydration before downing coffee is critical
We love a good ol’ cup of joe, but drinking coffee first thing in the morning isn't always the best for your health. Instead, Dr. Chen says folks should focus on rehydrating with water first thing in the day. “Hydration is very important and reigns supreme when it comes to healthy aging. In fact, When we’re born, our bodies are about 80 percent water. We lose that precious hydration as we get older, dropping down to around 55 percent by adulthood." The cause? "A combination of dehydrating effects of our diets and various lifestyles," he says.
In order to ensure he stays well-hydrated, Dr. Chen drinks water mixed with electrolytes to get added hydration throughout the day—and not just in the morning. This is especially important in hotter climates, he says. Aside from downing enough fluids, eating water-rich foods can help you beyond the recommended eight glasses of water daily. “Luscious produce like berries, cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes, melons, and cauliflower can hydrate and heal the trillions of cells in your body,” Dr. Chen says.
4. Establish a sense of routine to help reduce stress
According to Dr. Chen, consistency is key—which is why his morning routine doesn’t differ much on the weekdays versus the weekends. “When it comes to my morning routine, I try to go about as regular a schedule as possible. This helps my mind and body know what to expect first thing in the morning."
"When it comes to my morning routine, I try to go about as regular a schedule as possible. This helps my mind and body know what to expect first thing in the morning."
Instead, Dr. Chen likes to take things nice and slow and believes a little predictability regarding how your day will definitely isn’t a bad thing. “Too many people wake up everyday with a barrage of chores and responsibilities that end up dictating the flow of their mornings. So, it’s better to ease into your day and take a little time for yourself,” he says. Not to mention, having a morning routine is one of the key longevity-promoting habits in the Blue Zones, where folks consistently live well into their 100s.
A simple eight-minute "good morning" pilates stretch:
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