Most runners find that they are most consistent with their training if they establish a running routine, which typically involves running at roughly the same time of day every day that they run.
Because of this tendency, runners usually fall within one of several different camps: morning runners, midday runners, or evening runs. While there’s quite a bit of variability in the midday runners camp, the morning runners group is pretty well-defined and large in terms of unofficial membership.
Indeed, running in the morning is quite a popular and successful training strategy for lots of runners. Why do so many runners choose the start of the day to get in their miles?
It probably comes down to the fact that there are so many benefits of running in the morning that, theoretically, any two morning runners probably have their own unique set of reasons why they choose to run in the morning.
In this article, we will discuss the top benefits of running in the morning. So, if you’re looking for extra motivation to lace up your shoes and hit the road before the sun rises, keep reading for the best benefits of running in the morning.
#1: Running In the Morning May Reduce Your Risk of Heart Attack
It’s been well-established that running provides some amazing health benefits, such as strengthening your heart and lungs, building endurance, and increasing the elasticity of blood vessels.
For these reasons, running has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality.
In fact, studies have suggested that consistent running, even just a few miles per week, may reduce the risk of premature mortality by 25-40% and can potentially increase your lifespan by three years relative to the life expectancy for non-runners.
While these benefits aren’t reserved only for runners who train in the morning, it’s definitely conceivable that running in the morning can reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular emergencies.
We know that running improves the health of your heart and blood vessels, and running can reduce stress and anxiety.
Moreover, researchers have found that not only are heart attacks more common in the morning, but those that occur during the morning hours are also more serious, causing an average of 20% more dead heart tissue.
If a morning run can reduce stress and dilate your blood vessels, there’s a good chance your morning run can reduce the risk of a morning cardiac event.
#2: Running In The Morning Can Reduce Your Appetite
If you are one of the many runners trying to lose weight, one of the benefits of running in the morning is that it may help suppress your appetite.
Although some people report feeling ravenous after a long run, there’s some evidence to suggest that exercising in the morning may help reduce your appetite for the rest of the day, potentially helping you control your caloric intake.
Another study also found that men who exercised on an empty stomach before breakfast ate fewer calories throughout the rest of the day.
#3: Running In the Morning May Help You Burn More Fat
We all know that running burns calories, so it can be an effective way to lose weight, but there’s also evidence to suggest that running in the morning specifically may enhance fat burning.
Fasted cardio, which entails running in the morning on an empty stomach (after the overnight fast), has been shown to increase the relative percentage of fat oxidation, meaning that more of the calories you burn during the run comes from stored body fat.
The energy your muscles need when you run is created by burning stored fuel from the nutrients you take in through your diet.
Carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in the skeletal muscles and liver, fat is stored as triglycerides in fat tissue, and protein forms your muscle fibers.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, an endurance-trained athlete can store up to 1,800 to 2,000 calories of fuel as glycogen in the muscles and liver. Smaller runners might store closer to 1,500 calories or so.
Therefore, your glycogen stores are limited, especially when compared to the abundant supply of calories stored in body fat, even in the leanest of runners.
When you run in the fasted state, these glycogen stores deplete more rapidly since some of the glycogen is used up overnight.
As a result, your body has little choice but to oxidize more fat to supply the energy you need for your workout.
Evidence suggests this is indeed what happens when you run in the morning on an empty stomach, and some studies show you may burn up to 20% more fat when exercising on an empty stomach.
Furthermore, one small study found that exercising first thing in the morning on an empty stomach also increased overall fat oxidation over the next 24 hours.
It’s important to distinguish that you don’t necessarily burn more calories running in the morning, but you might burn a higher percentage of the calories from fat.
#4: Running In The Morning Starts the Day On a High Note
One of the benefits of running in the morning is that it gives you the opportunity to start your day on a positive note.
Not only does running feel good and leave you in a good mood, but finishing your workout in the morning is an immediate “win” or success in your day.
Getting your run done in the morning fills you with a sense of accomplishment and sets the tone for a productive, upbeat, and successful day ahead.
Some runners find that after they run in the morning, they are prone to make better health choices for the rest of the day, feel more empowered and confident at work, and have buoyed self-efficacy to take on difficult tasks on the to-do list.
#5: Running In the Morning May Improve Your Focus
Running in the morning doesn’t just subjectively help you feel like you are already being productive because you got your workout in; it can also actually make you more productive.
Evidence suggests that working out in the morning can help improve attention, working memory, and executive function throughout the rest of the day.
There’s also research to suggest that in the two hours following exercise, executive functions, including memory, problem-solving, decision-making, cognitive flexibility, verbal fluency, and inhibitory control, are enhanced.
#6: Running In The Morning Improves Your Relationship With Yourself
Some runners, particularly mother runners and father runners, battle a sense of guilt about heading out the door first thing in the morning to go for a run.
They worry that spending time running first thing in the morning is selfish and that they should be doing something actionable to care for their children. However, running in the morning is a beautiful act of self-care that everyone should feel comfortable embracing, parents and non-parents alike.
When you run first thing in the morning, you are demonstrating to yourself that your own health and well-being are a priority, and in this way, running in the morning is indeed self-care.
“Self-care” gets a bit of a bad rap sometimes, as if it’s really just psychobabble for self-indulgence. However, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health, self-care reduces stress, strengthens your immune system and helps you avoid getting sick, and increases your energy and sense of well-being.
Running in the morning isn’t selfish: it’s a way of making sure you’re mentally and physically healthy and energized enough to take care of your loved ones, including your children, other family members, and friends.
For all runners, one of the benefits of running in the morning is that this act of self-care demonstrates to yourself that your health and ensuring you feel well are a priority.
#7: Running In The Morning Can Improve Your Sleep
It’s vital to get high-quality sleep every night, and enough of it, yet millions of adults struggle with inadequate or poor sleep.
Studies suggest that one of the benefits of running in the morning rather than later in the day is that it can improve the quality of your sleep at night.
Exercise increases your body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure, which have favorable effects on the body’s circadian rhythm and time spent in each stage of sleep when the exercise is performed early in the day.
Another study also found that exercising in the morning, when compared to exercising in the afternoon or evening, improved the quality of sleep more significantly, especially in the later hours of sleep.
#8: Running In the Morning Can Help You Get Your Steps In
Of course, any time of day you choose to run, you are getting lots of great physical activity and accruing steps.
However, some runners forget that your total daily physical activity probably needs to extend beyond just your designated running workout, depending on the distance that you run and your overall health.
In other words, if you really want to optimize your health, just doing a 30-minute run every day isn’t necessarily enough to completely offset the risks associated with being completely sedentary the rest of the day.
It’s important to move your body throughout the day, doing various physical activities of daily living in addition to your run.
The good news is there’s evidence to suggest that people who exercise in the morning tend to exert more energy throughout the day, perhaps because knowing your workout is behind you frees you to be more active without feeling you need to “save” energy for your run.
#9: Running In The Morning Prepares You for Races
The majority of marathons and other road races take place in the morning, so one of the benefits of running in the morning is that you can better prepare yourself for your upcoming race.
Most coaches suggest trying to simulate the conditions of a race as much as possible in your training, and this includes practicing running at the same time that you will during the race.
This enables you to rehearse your fueling strategy and get accustomed to how your body feels and performs soon after waking up in the morning.
Many runners who initially switch to morning runs or who only run in the morning when it is race day feel stiff, sluggish, and groggy when they first get going.
Over time, with practice, your body can become accustomed to kicking into gear more quickly so that you feel strong, sharp, and coordinated as you run.
If you do long runs or hard workouts in the morning, you can also use these training sessions to experiment with what foods settle well in your stomach and provide sustainable energy without leaving you bloated or running for the bathroom.
#10: Running In The Morning Promotes Consistency
Although for some runners, their workout is one of the highlights of the day, and they can’t wait to get their miles in, plenty of runners struggle with motivation and sticking with their exercise routine.
One of the top benefits of running in the morning is that it can improve consistency and adherence to your workout regimen.
When your run is one of the first “to-do’s” on your docket for the day, there’s a better chance that you’ll be able to get it done without other responsibilities arising and derailing your plans.
Even with the best of intentions, if your run is planned for the afternoon or evening, you might find yourself buried under unforeseen responsibilities that crop up instead of running with your mates or hitting the trails for a nice solo long run.
A study on exercisers who are overweight found that a consistent morning exercise routine improves exercise adherence and weight loss.
#11: Running In the Morning May Reduce Blood Pressure
We kicked off this list of the top benefits of running in the morning by suggesting that doing so might reduce the risk of adverse cardiovascular emergencies.
And, while there isn’t a direct study demonstrating that in a cause-and-effect manner, exercising in the morning has been shown to be a more effective way to manage hypertension (high blood pressure), which often underlies heart attacks and cardiovascular events.
So, next time you feel like hitting the snooze button and pushing your run off until later in the day, think back to these benefits of running in the morning and see if you can summon the motivation to go for a run.
If mornings are just impossible due to scheduling, check out our guides on how to sneak in a lunch run efficiently or how to run safely at night.