The Best Morning Routine for Your Health: A Medical Opinion
By Sarah Vates & Matilda Davies
Simply put: not all of us are morning people. There are days where the alarm clock is public enemy number one and the to-do list comes in a close second. Whether or not it’s actually possible to become a morning person, there are ways that you can ensure your morning routine sets you up for health.
We spoke to Dr. George E. Vates, MD, Ph.D., a neurosurgeon and the co-director of the University of Rochester Multidisciplinary Neuroendocrinology Clinic to get his opinion on the best practices to start your day. Here’s what he had to say about creating the best morning routine for your health.
Get enough sleep
Before you can employ a healthful morning routine, invest in a good night’s sleep—as your natural rhythms allow. Note that a good night’s sleep doesn’t necessarily mean early to bed and early to rise, it’s more important that you just get enough.
“People should wake up after a good night’s rest: typically 7–8 hours for most (I’m the worst at this),” says Dr. Vates. “There is a growing understanding that for most people, waking up at a typical morning time is good, but a significant percentage of people are genetically designed to be ‘night owls’…late to bed and late to get up.”
After getting enough sleep, Dr. Vates says that hydration should be the next step: “Most people are dehydrated after a night’s sleep, so the best first thing to do is drink some water.”
Staying well hydrated increases energy and relieves fatigue, flushes toxins, aids in digestion, improves cognitive function, and even improves skin health.
“Start the day with 15–20 minutes of mindfulness meditation,” says Dr. Vates. “Centering yourself and clearing the mental decks for the day ahead is good for making you more effective and grateful for what life has in store.”
We’re big believers in meditation here. We recommend these free guided meditations from UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center. They run anywhere from five to 19 minutes, so even if you’re pressed for time in the morning, you can take a few moments to center yourself. Essential oil diffusers can also be beneficial in calming your headspace. Here is our take on the best essential oil diffusers.
Dr. Vates also recommends stretching first thing in the morning, which “purposefully helps to get your joints and muscles ready for the day.”
Another crucial element of a healthy morning routine is a solid breakfast. Here’s how to balance your first meal: “Focusing on a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats is important. As far as carbohydrates go, you want a combination of sugars that are absorbed easily to give you an early energy boost (e.g., fruits) and sugars that are more slowly digested and released over the course of the morning (complex carbohydrates that come from food with whole grains).”
“As far as protein goes, any type is good as long as it doesn’t travel with bad fats (eggs or milk-based proteins are good; for vegans think of different soy- or nut-based proteins). Nuts are a good food because they have a balance of protein and healthy fats, but avoid processed nuts like nut butter with a lot of added simple sugars.”
Work out in the morning
As tough as it can be to peel ourselves out of bed in the morning, an a.m. workout routine can be worth the trouble: “For many people, exercise in the morning works because it helps get them energized for the day, and it also takes advantage of the natural ‘spike’ in cortisol that most people make in the morning,” says Dr. Vates. “Also, the morning is an easy time to carve out ‘personal time’ before life throws things at you that keep you from committing the time to exercise. Both aerobic exercise and more strenuous weight or resistance exercise are good in the morning, but it is important to warm up before both types of exercise.”
If you’re having trouble getting started with a morning workout routine, check out:
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