Many people swear by a morning walk and who can blame them? The fresh air, the movement, the peace. When the sun first rises, people and cars take a backseat to sightings of birds, deer, chipmunks and squirrels. A gentle shot of morning sunshine can give you the daily dose of vitamin D you need, without the harsh rays of later in the day. Bring headphones to blast music, take in an inspirational podcast or stream a meditation and you might be surprised at how much you enjoy your new routine. Plus, there are many health benefits.
6 Health Benefits of Adding a Morning Walk to Your Routine
You’ll Live Longer
Walking is a low-impact exercise that can help you live longer: research led by I-Min Lee, professor at Harvard’s Department of Epidemiology, found that older women who walked at least 4,400 steps each day had greater longevity than those who walked less.
Better Mental Health
It’s not just the fresh air. Science actually shows mental health benefits to adding a morning walk to your routine. Your mood is boosted with the increased blood flow and circulation. But a morning walk also “has a positive influence on your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is your central nervous response system. This is good because the HPA axis is responsible for your stress response,” according to WebMD. It’s a domino effect: walking calms your nerves, which makes you feel less stressed.
Walking, like any exercise, increases the effect of your body’s natural sleep hormones including melatonin. And it’s particularly effective for postmenopausal women. A study in the journal Sleep found that women in this demo who walked (or worked out) for about 30 minutes a day had an easier time falling asleep than those who didn’t. Just watch the timing of your workouts, warns Harvard Health Publishing. Exercising too close to bedtime can be stimulating. Instead, morning walks expose you to bright daylight and help the natural circadian rhythm that allows you to fall asleep–and stay asleep all night long.
Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans and taking a morning walk turns out to be one of the simplest, and most effective, ways to protect yourself. In a study published in JAMA, researchers found that the more participants walked, the lower their risk of dying in the next 10 years, regardless of their age, sex or race. And there’s more: those who walked 8,000 steps (about 3.5 miles) daily, compared to those who only walked 4,000 steps (the daily average for Americans without exercising), were about fifty percent less likely to die in the next 10 years for any reason — but especially from heart disease.
As we age, our balance tends to decline, but a morning walk can help build lower-body strength, which is an important element of good balance. Slowly and steadily, even those who use a walker or cane can build up stamina by increasing the amount of time spent walking each morning.
Physical activity, such as walking, is important for weight control because it helps you burn calories, say researchers at The Mayo Clinic. If you add 30 minutes of brisk walking to your daily routine, you could burn about 150 more calories a day. Of course, the more you walk and the quicker your pace, the more calories you’ll burn.
4 Ways to Add a Morning Walk to Your Routine
Make a Schedule
Do the backwards math to find out how much earlier you’ll have to wake up, and on which days. For example, it might make sense to wake up 45-60 minutes earlier to take a 30 minute walk. Don’t forget that you’ll likely be more tired in the evenings too, so factor that into your new schedule.
Get the Right Gear
A pair of comfortable, stable and supportive sneakers is the most important piece of athletic gear for walking. Pants (or shorts) should be soft and giving, along with tops. It’s possible to find sweat-wicking or fast drying fabrics but not necessary.
Find a Walking Partner
One of the most important factors sticking to a new an accountability buddy, and walking is no different. Having an accountability buddy increases your chances of showing up. Plus, connecting with a friend while walking, and checking in with each other throughout the week can strengthen your friends.
Set Your Intention
The most important part of making a morning walk part of your routine is simple: decide you want to. If you don’t want to walk, you won’t. Think of when you’ve been motivated to make a change in the past. Did you want to lose weight for a special event? Sometimes we suddenly find the will to make change happen, but it’s only when we decide to do it.
Ready to jump start this daily wellness prescription? Share how you add a morning walk to your routine with us on social media and tag #youfitgyms.