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What Going for a Morning Walk Does to Your Body, Says Science

Here's why a brisk walk should be the cornerstone of your healthy morning routine.
FACT CHECKED BY William Mayle

It's simply a fact that how we start the day sets the tone for the hours to come. Whether you find it easy to hop out of bed first thing in the morning or routinely struggle by hitting the snooze button, you should consider adding a morning walk to your schedule. After all, getting out at first light for a brisk walk will do wonders for your energy levels, your diet, and even your sleep. Read on for many of the benefits of getting out and hitting the pavement or trails every single morning. And for more on the benefits of a stroll, see here for the Side Effects of Walking Just 10 Minute Per Day, According to Science.

1

Your brain gets a boost

happy woman sitting by the window
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A mind is a terrible thing to waste, and morning walks ensure you're putting your best neural foot forward. Research from 2017 conducted at New Mexico Highlands University found that walking increases the amount of blood sent to the brain. "What is surprising is that it took so long for us to finally measure these obvious hydraulic effects on cerebral blood flow," first study author Ernest Greene explains. "There is an optimizing rhythm between brain blood flow and ambulating (walking)." And for some great tips for walking better, read about The Secret Trick for Walking for Exercise, According to Health Experts at Harvard University.

2

You'll prime your body to eat healthier meals that day

Smiling young woman having an unhealthy snack, she is taking a delicious pastry out of the fridge
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Walking burns energy, so if anything shouldn't one be more hungry after a walk? Possibly, but you won't be craving sweets or chocolates. A fascinating study published in the scientific journal Appetite reports that a walk as short as just 15 minutes can curb chocolate snacking by half. That's helpful on any given day, but it's especially today given that so many of us are working within walking distance of the kitchen.

"We often feel that these snacks give us an energy boost, or help us deal with the stress of our jobs, including boredom. People often find it difficult to cut down on their daily treats but this study shows that by taking a short walk, they are able to regulate their intake by half," comments lead study researcher Professor Adrian Taylor of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Exeter.

3

You'll keep your weight in check

Happy Woman smiling on weighing scales at home, asian

For individuals with a family history of obesity, a morning walk is a great way to help stave off those genetic inclinations. Harvard researchers studied this topic extensively by examining 32 obesity-promoting genes across 12,000 individuals. They discovered that among those with a high genetic risk of obesity, rates were cut in half for those walking briskly one hour per day. And for advice on walking properly, make sure you know the Major Mistakes You Should Never Make While Walking, Say Experts.

4

You'll make sure you sleep better

couple sleeping in bed

If you've been dealing with sleep issues, it's a good idea to get most of your physical activity in as early as possible. That way, your body is fully relaxed and calm by the time it's evening. This research published in Sleep Medicine noted sleep quality improvements among a group of insomniacs after they started walking and exercising in the morning. Taking in some sunlight and vitamin D early in the day will also realign and set right your internal clock. And for more on the connection between your walking and your health, see why you should Walk to This One Song if You Want to Live Longer.

5

You'll protect your heart

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According to The Heart Foundation, a 30-minute walk each day may cut your heart disease risk by as much as 35-40%. As if that isn't enough, a morning walk can also improve blood circulation, lower blood pressure, and help prevent (or control) diabetes. Maintaining a regular walking routine is the first step to robust cardiac and cardiovascular health over the long-term.

6

You'll improve your cognitive performance and enhance your focus

Woman is stressed tired and cant focus on her work
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A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences focused on a group of college students, who were asked to perform exercises such as 10-minute brisk walks and then complete cognitive tests. At the end of the research, the scientists concluded that a single bout of short exercise went a long way toward a healthier brain, as participants immediately showed much better memory performance and focus on cognitive tests.

7

Pro tip: It helps to walk with purpose

Woman exercise walking outdoors, shoes closeup

Are all forms of walking equal? Not necessarily, according to a recent study from Ohio State University. "We found that walking for utilitarian purposes significantly improves your health, and that those types of walking trips are easier to bring into your daily routine," says study co-author Gulsah Akar.

In other words, it appears to be healthier to walk with a specific purpose in mind, such as going to the store or walking to work. In the study, participants reported walking at a faster pace and being healthier in general when they made walking an important part of their day. And to make sure you're wearing the right shoes while walking, make sure you're aware of The Single Worst Shoes for Walking Every Day, According to a New Study.

John Anderer
John Anderer is a writer who specializes in science, health, and lifestyle topics. Read more
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