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Why you need morning exercise

Karen Hawthorne is a health and lifestyle writer and producer in Toronto, Canada. Her work has appeared in print and online for publications including Glow, Homemakers, BestHealthMag.ca and the National Post.

The best morning exercises

You jump out of bed after your alarm goes off and stumble to the shower for a quick wake up. Then you figure out what you’re going to wear, get the kids up, grab breakfast, feed everyone, and herd them into the car to further start your day. How could you possibly fit in anything else – particularly exercise – into this busy morning routine? Exercise is essential for your health, and we’ve got a few tips and tricks and the best exercises to get you moving in the morning.

Woman going for morning run

Ditch the excuses

First of all, you are not alone – many people have jam-packed morning schedules. Not having enough time is one of the main reasons many people report for not getting enough exercise. However, if you get over the excuses, we guarantee that with a few intentional and easy tweaks to your wake up routine, exercise can become a great part of your morning that will energize you for the day.

Daily exercise requirements for good health

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that the average adult get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week to maintain a healthy lifestyle. That equals about 22 minutes of physical activity, such as walking, each day. If you want to try a more intense physical activity such as running, you will need at least 75 minutes of this type of vigorous exercise per week; that's a mere 11 minutes per day. To keep your bones and muscles strong, experts also recommend strength building exercises at least twice a week.

What does this mean for you? You just have to carve out between 11 and 22 minutes of movement every day to give you a baseline of healthy activity.

Tips and tricks to make exercise part of your morning

You may be rolling your eyes right now, thinking that even a minimum of 11 minutes is too much to squeeze into the start of your day. But you can do it with a little organization and a change of habits. And, best yet, we're going to help you!

1. Retrain your circadian rhythm

Research by the University of North Texas, in Denton, found that while we are each born with a certain circadian rhythm – the 24-hour bodily cycle – we can reset our internal alarm clock by changing our patterns. Our body is built for a seven- or eight-hour sleep cycle, so making sure you get to bed earlier can help train your internal clock to wake you up in time to exercise. Forgo the evening sitcoms and go to bed an hour earlier (chances are, your kids are already sleeping so don't use them as an excuse to miss out on your beauty sleep).

2. Organize your wardrobe the night before

Before you hit the hay, figure out the next day's attire and lay out your clothing. Matalan, a major UK clothing provider, polled 2,491 women on how long it takes them to pick out their clothing in the morning. The poll revealed that it takes the average woman about 14 minutes Monday through Friday to decide what she is going to wear for that day. Getting through the wardrobe dilemma the night before frees up the time you need for a quick round of morning activity.

3. Pack your lunch – and the kids' lunches

Why add stress to your morning by trying to get breakfast and lunches made right before you head out the door? Before you clean up the kitchen after dinner, put your lunches together for the next day. You can prepare a healthy lunch the night before so all you have to do is pick it up from the fridge on your way out. Making lunches the night before should easily give you 11 to 22 minutes of morning exercise time.

4. Set the alarm clock

Set your alarm clock to an earlier time. Yes, it sounds challenging, but this habit can also give you the extra time to squeeze in exercise. You may not feel like exercising when you wake up earlier at first, but stay awake when the alarm goes off so your body adjusts to the new start time. You also have to keep your hand away from the snooze button to make this work. You'll be pleasantly surprised when getting your blood pumping in the morning wakes you up even more effectively than a shower.

5. Keep yourself accountable

The buddy system is one of the best ways to keep you committed to regular exercise. Whether it's a running group, your spouse, or even your kids (they need daily exercise, too!), plan to meet at a certain time in the morning (even if it's in the living room with a fitness DVD) for a defined amount of exercise. Working out with someone else will keep you more motivated to not let others down.

6. KISS it

Perhaps you've already heard of the KISS Principle. Traditionally, the acronym KISS stands for Keep It Simple Stupid. We like to think of the acronym as meaning Keep It Short and Simple when it comes to fitting exercise into your morning. The key here is keeping it simple so that you can achieve a consistent (and short) amount of exercise. Simple exercises, the kind that you can do at home or in your neighborhood, will allow you too keep your work out time short and manageable.

The best exercises to start your day

1. Go for a jog around the block. It's simple but can be intense, so you won't have to run for a long time. Plus, you know the terrain and you won't need any extra equipment. Alternate routes to keep your runtime fresh. You can even start with a brisk power walk and work yourself up to a jog.

2. Jump on your bike. Whether you have a stationary bike or the option of hitting the road, get in a bout of cycling before you officially start your day. Although more moderate than running, cycling provides many benefits including lowering blood pressure, toning the lower body and raising overall stamina. You might even consider doing errands by bike instead of car to get in a little extra exercise after the kids go to school or later in the day.

3. Try push-ups alternating with squats. Sound a little old-school? Perhaps, but these exercises work many muscles at once. Push-ups help tone and strengthen your upper body while squats target your lower body. Both exercises work your core, create lean muscle mass and can raise your metabolic rate. Try to do as many as possible at once, take a break, then try another set.

It doesn't take much

Finding the time to exercise is probably easier than you think and can provide many benefits, such as higher energy, lower stress levels and a fit physique. Who doesn't want that? The trick is making a little time for exercise in the morning and doing the types of exercises that work best for you.

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