Morning move 2: Stretch it out
Extend your typical arms-overhead morning stretch to your whole body. Aside from maintaining flexibility, the Mayo Clinic reports that regular stretch sessions also improve circulation (aiding in muscle recovery after a workout), improve your posture (preventing injury and making you look leaner), and relieve stress (warding off junk-food cravings and excess belly fat). Try starting your day with these calming stretches.
Morning move 3: Sweat with the sunrise
Studies show that morning exercise can improve your sleep quality and will help you start the day stress-free. One study by scientists at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle found that women who exercised consistently in the morning (about four hours each week) slept better than evening exercisers. The researchers suggested that the morning workouts may have set up the women’s body clocks for a day of activity and a night of rest, while evening exercise may have confused the sleep cycle. What’s more, other studies have shown that when you’re sleep deprived, your metabolism slows and your hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin, get thrown off. Ghrelin tells the body to eat, while leptin asks it to stop, so an increase in ghrelin and a lack of leptin resulting from a sleep-deprived body is recipe for weight struggles.
Morning move 4: Work out before you eat
Should you skip breakfast before your morning workout? A study published in the Journal of Physiology tested a group of healthy young men by letting them indulge in a high-fat diet and having them do a 30-minute cardio session either before or after breakfast for six weeks. The group that took on the pre-meal workouts gained almost no weight over the span of the trial and burned fat more efficiently than the post-breakfast group, who gained weight on average. The reason: Since an empty stomach means no fuel in your tank, exercising in a fasted state causes your body to burn fat for energy, instead.
Morning move 5: Take it outside
Researchers at Northwestern University recently discovered that people who are exposed to early morning sunlight are leaner than those who only see the light in the afternoon. The study authors explained that “exposure to morning light has an impact on hormones that regulate appetite and body fat.” They reported that early morning sunlight contains a high concentration of “blue light,” which offers more health benefits. And bonus: sunlight exposure has also been linked to a lower risk of depression. Your move: get outside for a walk, run, or bike ride before work
Morning move 6: Eat
There’s a ton of research highlighting the health benefits of having breakfast, including one study from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) that found that men who regularly skipped a morning meal had a significantly higher risk of heart attack or death from heart disease compared to breakfast eaters. What’s more, countless studies link breakfast consumption with healthier body weights, so even if it’s something small — whole grain breakfast toast with jam and a hard boiled egg, or a tall glass of milk and a piece of fruit — starting your day with some flat-belly breakdast sustenance is a no-brainer.
Morning move 7: Be friends with fiber and dairy
According to the USDA, barely one in 10 Americans get the recommended amount of fiber in their diets (25 grams for women; 35 grams for men). That’s a problem when you consider that the nutrient has been proven to keep you full, prevent heart disease, and ward off weight-gain, among other health benefits of fiber. Another food that fights fat: dairy. A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that adults with a high dairy intake lost more weight than those eating a low-dairy diet. Round out your morning meal with fiber-rich foods like nuts or berries, and include cheese, yogurt, or milk in the equation.
Morning move 8: Take a cold shower
If you can handle it, a cool start to your day could be worth the discomfort. For one, scalding water can dry out your skin and hair, but studies have also shown that a cold shower can jump start your metabolism and boost your immunity. The low temp increases your metabolic rate, and your body’s attempt to warm up activates your immune system and your body releases more white blood cells in response. Brave enough to give it a go? Ease into it by starting your shower at a comfortable temperature and slowly turning the water cooler after a few minutes.
Morning move 9: Get frisky
Some fun between the sheets before starting your day can benefit not only you and your partner’s connection, but also your health! In a study conducted at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, PA, researchers found that having sex once or twice a week boosts the immune system. Specifically, frequent morning sex can keep antibody levels high, protecting your body from foreign invaders. Also, as if you needed more reason stay in the sack, a study at Queens University in Belfast found that having sex three times a week could halve your risk of heart attack or stroke.
Morning move 10: Sip on green tea
Green tea has long been touted for its impressive health benefits, and with good reason: The herbal drink is rich in catechins, which are natural antioxidants, and a number of studies have shown that tea helps fight obesity. Researchers at Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences recently discovered that overweight mice that exercised regularly and ingested green tea extract lost significantly more body weight than those who worked out without the supplement. “Our findings suggest that green tea in the absence of caffeine can enhance the effects of exercise,” said lead researcher Joshua Lambert. “It looks like a combination of exercise and decaffeinated green tea enhances the body’s ability to use energy that is taken in.” If plain green tea bores you, try adding a splash of lemon juice or unsweetened almond milk to make it go down easier.