1. Positive mindset
Beginning your morning on the right note helps to set the overall tone for the day ahead. So, starting your mornings with exercise, fresh air, connecting with nature and getting some headspace is sure to have those positive vibes flowing into the afternoon and beyond. What’s more is that, done regularly, you will be creating a healthy morning ritual for yourself that will really benefit your overall health in the long term. There’s no deliberation about whether you can fit in a walk later in the day, and fewer distractions, when you just automatically get up and go.
2. Less stress
There is a mounting body of research showing that time out in green spaces can help to reduce stress. An early morning walk is a highly effective way to boost feelings of calmness, particularly ahead of a busy work day. “Daily rituals, or regular practices, are vital in taking care of your wellbeing, putting you in an optimal state,” says workplace wellness expert Christina Disler (christinadisler.com). “These practices help you tune in and connect to yourself, which supports resiliency. If we can find moments to tune out from the world and be with ourselves, we will be better off in the hours to come in our day.”
3. Beat the heat
Admittedly, this may not be a yearround benefit in the UK, but during a summer heatwave you’ll appreciate an early walk to avoid the sun’s glare, as will any canine companion. Doing your walk early will make it less of a sweaty session and help to reduce your risk of sunburn. Don’t forget your SPF though, as those rays can be strong even first thing in the morning at this time of year.
4. More energy
If you wake up feeling sluggish, try stepping outside for a stroll instead of hitting the coffee straight away. One study found that stair walking was more energising than caffeine for sleep-deprived women*. A morning walk will boost your heart rate and bloodflow as well as wake up your nervous system. It’s also the perfect opportunity to focus on your breath, which helps improve oxygenation and energy levels. And, as if that wasn’t enough, upping your step count in the morning can improve your sleep (see next).
5. Better sleep
Do you have trouble drifting off at night? Believe it or not, going for a morning walk could be the life hack you’re looking for. “Exercise can help boost your mood, reduce stress, improve your energy levels and your focus and can even help with sleep,” points out author and consultant psychiatrist Dr Sarah Vohra (@themindmedic) who has worked with Pukka Herbs. But it’s the timing of your morning walk that can really boost the quality of your shuteye, because catching those early morning rays balances your natural body clock. “Exposure to natural daylight particularly early in the day can help reset your body’s 24-hour clock, regulating the sleep/wake cycle that helps to optimise your sleep, mood and even appetite.” If you love a daily brew first thing, and are short on time, why not make it one for the road? “Pop your tea into a travel cup and get outside,” Dr Sarah suggests.
6. Healthier choices throughout the day
Studies show that getting decent sleep makes us more likely to maintain a healthy weight, since we’re not craving as much energy from meals and snacks, so the fact that morning walks can help us sleep better really is a win-win. And, did you also know that exercising in the AM can also curb food cravings? Research published in 2012 found that women experienced less of an attraction to photos of food when they had completed a 45-minute brisk morning walk and more activity throughout the rest of the day**. Perhaps it’s because we’re more energised and in a better frame of mind after an early workout, so we’re less susceptible to emotional eating?
7. A clearer mind
Taking a stroll at any time of day is always a surefire way to blow away the cobwebs, yet morning walks are thought to be particularly good for clearing brain fog. A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that older adults who began their days with a walk improved their cognitive function, compared to those who were inactive first thing. Even more reason to get up and out as we get older.
8. Improved mood
Not a morning person? You could be, if you work out first thing. Exercise releases feelgood hormones in your body, which are natural mood boosters. If you’re not up for a spin or gym session with the larks, walking is a gentle way to ease you into the day. You never know, getting outside for some fresh air in a green space might even make you smile before coffee!
9. Better immunity
Making time for a regular AM stroll can help bolster your immune system. Research from Harvard Medical School found that those who walked at least 20 minutes a day, five days a week had almost 50 percent fewer sick days than those who exercised once a week or less. What’s more, if they did fall ill, it was generally for a shorter time, and with milder symptoms.
10. A healthy weight
10,000 steps a day is the target we’re told to reach in order to help us maintain a healthy weight. Getting the majority of those steps done early makes us avoid making excuses not to exercise later in the day. Plus, it feels good to smugly tick it off your to-do list first thing in the morning.