Everyone’s morning routine looks different. Some people sprint to the Nespresso machine upon waking for their daily brew. Others check their phone notifications to see what they’ve missed on the socials. Some morning routines are healthier than others. If you want to change yours for the better, there is one thing you can implement that will significantly improve all aspects of your health. Read below to find out more.
It might sound too good to be true but starting your day with an outdoor walk is a game changer. It doesn’t need to be long and you can walk at any pace you like. But making this part of your daily routine can improve your mental and physical health. If you listen to Andrew Huberman podcasts, you will already know the plethora of benefits an early walk has on the body. Him and many others in the health sphere are huge advocates of a morning saunter. The average person likely knows there are some benefits to walking but don’t know the extent of the fascinating science behind it. The simple act of putting one foot in front of the other improves your physical health and even your mindset. Those with poor mental health especially can benefit from a few more daily steps.
An outdoor morning walk is one of the best things you can do for anxiety. Physical activity triggers the release of brain chemicals that make you feel good (like dopamine and serotonin). These neurotransmitters improve our mood so much that psychologists use exercise as a treatment for mental health disorders. On top of this, when we walk our eyes dart from side to side to update the brain on where our body is in space. This lateral eye movement is called ‘optic flow’. When our eyes are doing optic flow, the parts of our brain that make us feel anxious switch off. Scientific research shows that these lateral eye movements dull the stress response and promote a sense of relaxation. If you are prone to anxiety or are feeling under the pump, a simple stroll can be just what you need to silence those worrying thoughts. Next time you feel uneasy or perturbed, go for an early walk and notice how much better your mood is afterwards.
Are you stuck in a rut or can’t manage to come up with any new ideas? Time for a morning walk! One study looked at the link between outdoor walks and creativity. Those who strolled outside amongst nature came up with higher quality analogies compared to those on an indoor treadmill and those sitting down. There are a few theories as to why this works. Potentially it is because walking increases blood flow to the brain and therefore improves cognitive function. Another reason could be that experiencing different environments leads to the creation of new ideas. Whatever the reason may be, this is super relevant for those working in creative industries like film or entertainment. It’s not easy to come up with innovative ideas every day but walking outside can be a great source of inspiration.
Increased Energy Expenditure
Surveys done by Southern Cross show that the average New Zealander doesn’t do the recommended 2.5 hours of weekly exercise. As a country we rank very poorly when it comes to levels of physical activity and have the third highest obesity rate in the OECD. This needs to change and it starts with our energy expenditure. Walking is one of the easiest forms of physical activity one can do (unless you’re injured of course). Humans evolved to walk on two feet and we can do so for very long periods of time. In order to combat the obesity epidemic, we need to get active. The more you walk, the more calories you burn. Increasing your daily steps means you are less likely to be overweight and you’re doing what humans were designed to do. Losing weight does not mean you have to hire a personal trainer or join a crossfit gym. It really is as simple as moving more every day.
Time To Plan Your Day
Too many of us live life on autopilot and don’t take the time to carefully plan out our day. If we took the time to do this, we would be far more productive and less stressed. Living life intentionally ensures you will accomplish everything on your to do list. While you go for your morning walk, decide what your main tasks for the day are. Ponder how you could better manage your time and think about what needs prioritising. Imagine your daily stroll is like a meeting with yourself to discuss what is going well and what needs work. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Beginning your day with a plan is the best way to ensure you complete all important tasks and go to bed feeling content.
Less Sleep Disruptions
Do you suffer from insomnia or struggle to wind down at night? Sleep difficulties become more and more prevalent as we age. Luckily you can do something about this. Research shows that doing physical activity in the morning, as opposed to late, can improve your sleep duration and quality. The seniors in this study found it much easier to nod off at night if they had started their day with morning movement. Walking outside in the morning is also great for regulating your circadian rhythm (aka your body clock). Sunlight exposure tells your body what time of day it is. If your internal body clock is out of whack this will negatively affect your hormones, digestion and sleep. Walking when the sun has risen will let your body know what time it is. This will help you feel less groggy in the morning and ready to hit the hay when it comes to bedtime.
Walking first thing in the morning is beneficial and practical, especially in summer. Sneak that exercise in before the temperature gets too hot and you’ll be ready to seize the rest of the day. Not only is walking pleasurable, it is what humans as bipedal creatures are designed to do. Hippocrates once said “walking is man’s best medicine” and the scientific research suggests he was onto something. If you want to feel better, come up with more creative ideas, improve your sleep quality or get in some more movement then set that alarm and start your day with a morning stroll. Your mental and physical health will be better for it.