3 Additional Perks of Being a Morning Runner
Morning runners swear by getting their daily dose of endorphins first thing. They set their alarm clocks for the crack of dawn, head out for some freezing, early-morning miles, and return back home before the rest of the household even knows they were gone. And while evening runners prefer getting an extra hour or two of shut-eye, early birds insist that morning running helps keep them consistent and tackle the day with a positive mindset.
But is it really worth the effort? Does morning running really come with additional perks when compared to running later in the day? Or is it simply a matter of getting it done whenever you can? While any exercise is certainly better than none, recent research findings have uncovered ways in which morning running may be extra good for you. Here’s the low-down.
1. Morning runs may be more effective at lowering blood pressure and inducing better quality sleep
A 2014 study published in Cardiovascular Health and Risk Management looked at the impact of the timing of aerobic exercise on both circadian blood pressure changes and quality of sleep. In this study, 20 prehypertensive individuals performed 30 minutes of exercise at 07:00 AM, 13:00 PM and 19:00 PM on different days at 65% of the heart rate obtained at peak oxygen uptake. Blood pressure responses and sleep quality were subsequently monitored for 24 hours after each session.
The results? According to the research team “exercise completed at the 07:00 AM time point evoked a greater drop in nocturnal blood pressure and elicited more time spent in deep sleep, less time spent in REM sleep, shorter sleep-onset latency, and a decreased number of awakenings following the onset of sleep”. Which, in short, means that “early morning (at 07:00 AM) may be the most beneficial time of day to engage in aerobic exercise for the improvement of blood pressure and sleep architecture”.
2. AM running may reduce PM food cravings
In addition to impacting blood pressure and sleep patterns, morning running has also been found to reduce food cravings. A 2012 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise showed that 45 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise in the morning reduced study participants’ post-training food cravings. In this study, 17 clinically obese women and 18 normal-weight women were asked to perform 45 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise before looking at 120 images of plated food and 120 images of flowers as a control. Members of the research team measured each participant’s neural activity while they were looking at these images. The same experiment was then repeated a week later, minus the 45-minute exercise session.
And the results? The bout of morning exercise resulted in lower brain responses to food images for both groups of women. Which implies that a morning workout may lower food cravings later in the day.
Interestingly enough, this study also found that participants did not consume more food on the day of exercise in order to make up for the additional calories burned. Instead, the same amount of food was more or less ingested on both exercise and non-exercise days. (Note that study participants ate whatever they wanted on both days.) Food for thought if your reason for not being a morning runner is that early-morning runs leave you famished by the end of the day, right?
3. Morning runners tend to move more throughout the day
The same study as mentioned above also looked at participants’ complete physical activity patterns on both exercise and non-exercise days. And while one would expect lower overall levels of activity on the exercise day in response to being worn-out by the AM workout session, the research team found exactly the opposite.
Both the obese and normal-weight women showed an increase in total physical activity on the exercise day. Meaning that starting the day off with some exercise may motivate you to keep moving throughout the day.
So if you’re a morning runner, keep it up. In addition to the myriad of physical, mental and emotional benefits of running, you may also be reaping these three additional benefits too. Just remember to warm up properly and ease into your workouts to avoid injury.
As for the PM runners, consider shuffling your schedule to allow for the occasional morning run. But if you simply can’t make it happen, don’t fret. The fact that morning runs may deliver some additional perks certainly doesn’t mean that evening runs aren’t good for you. In fact, some studies have indicated that running performance is at its highest later in the day. (But that’s a topic for another post!) Plus many runners feel that it’s simply physically easier to run in the afternoon or evening.
So find what works for you and, most importantly, keep on running!
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- Effects of exercise timing on sleep architecture and nocturnal blood pressure in prehypertensives, Scientific journal ,
- Neural response to pictures of food after exercise in normal-weight and obese women, Scientific journal ,
- Morning exercise and food cravings, Online publication ,