Exercising First Thing in the Morning: A Lazy Person’s Guide

by Alejandra "Alex" Ruani — Get free science updates here.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Studies show that people can burn up to 20% more body fat by exercising in the morning on an empty stomach. That’s a fairly astonishing piece of research.

Furthermore, one recent study in April of this year at Northwestern University reports that a good way to prevent fat gain is to get morning light, no matter your physical activity level, caloric intake, sleep timing, age or season.

“If a person doesn’t get sufficient light at the appropriate time of day, it could de-synchronise your internal body clock, which is known to alter metabolism and can lead to weight gain,” said study senior researcher and neurologist Phyllis C. Zee, M.D.

But you are not an exercise person. You are not a morning person.

Despite that (and with the above studies in mind), you are someone who would like some guidance to exercising first thing in the morning.

If so, you’re in the right place. We’ve got you covered.

Listen up, we can do this!

But first, some things to consider.

If the most amount of activity you get done in the morning is showering, brushing your teeth and getting dressed, then you can be sure you’re driving your metabolism, mood, and motivation deeper into deficiency. That’s not cool.

And then – at the other end of the spectrum – we have the daunting NHS physical activity guidelines. They advise a basic 150 minutes of moderate activity and two or more days of muscle strengthening exercises per week. That’s a bit more than basic and little more towards preposterous, don’t you think?

But the truth is, doing any kind of activity for inactive/indifferent/lazy people will benefit their health.

This is especially true for those of us who have sedentary jobs that chain us into a seat all day (which is even worse for you than you think).

If you’re truly a lazy person, it means you don’t feel like exercising – particularly first thing in the morning.

Don’t force it right now

Let’s begin by adding some simple activity during the day. Then we’ll get to the morning.

Here are six right-off-the bat ways to get some activity during your day:

  1. Waiting for the kettle to boil? Don’t just wait, do these kitchen exercises recommended by the Australian Department of Health.
  2. Park your car farther away than usual from work/shopping and walk that extra distance.
  3. Hop off the bus or tube a stop or two sooner and walk that extra length of commute.
  4. Stay away from the lift – use the stairs when you can.
  5. Leave your desk when you take a break.
  6. Walk your pup.

In other words, be a better “biped” when appropriate.

By the way, did you know that office workers would burn an extra 30,000 calories a year by spending three hours a day standing up?

Okay, so let’s go back to the morning

You may not be a morning person, but you could be a morning exerciser. And you don’t have to be one of the peppy, bright crowd who rises effortlessly and laces up as soon as the sun peeks over the horizon.

Let’s guide you in on this one.

First, have you ever tried to exercise in the morning? What happened?

It’s getting motivated that’s the challenge for a lot of us. Recalling positive memories of an exercise experience is a great way to inspire you to move, according to a new study.

Also, preparing the night before can make exercise in the morning a whole lot easier. Can’t find your socks and trainers? Lay out your essentials before going to bed. And call it a night a bit earlier so you wake up well rested.

There are probably 101 ways written out there to encourage us to exercise in the morning. There are studies, suggestions, lists, and even intimidations. But what good are they if we just read about them? It’s the doing that matters, right?

So in suggesting a remedy here, let me share three viable, actionable things you can do as a lazy person who might be open to exercising in the morning.

1. Simple, free, and easy – walk

Like I mentioned earlier, walking is another way to build into your bank of movement. Even lazy people can do this.

We really are bodies that were born to walk. It’s simple, free and one of the easiest ways to get more active, lose weight and become healthier. Begin with really short walks, say 5-10 minutes, and go from there.

2. Meet your “older” self

A Stanford study showed that you’re more likely to change if you visualise your senior self and recognise that this future person is dependent on the current you.

So, have a good look in the mirror. Project yourself into the future about 25 years. Based on your indolent habits today, what is your future health? Compound the years and add up all your disinterest.

What’s one thing that scares the hell out of you that you can change now? Tomorrow morning, get up two minutes earlier, put on cheery music, shake your (still younger) body and get a sweat on.

3. Stop excusing yourself

Yes, that’s quite blunt.

But seriously, stop making excuses. Decide to make a small shift with regards to getting active and do it. You really can do it. Small shifts of improvement over time can make a difference.

At the end of the day (or at the beginning), exercise at any time is better than none at all.

Over to You

What do you think?

Are you a lazy, non-morning person or a lively, chirpy sparrow? Or do you float somewhere in between? And what about those around you?

Let’s hear about it in the comments section below – a great place to share your own tips and learn from each other!

And don’t forget to pass this onto someone who could use a morning boost.

Every other Thursday we share our research and actionable advice to help you and those you care about. If you enjoyed this, join our FREE updates.


  • Emma Goodson

    Reply Reply July 28, 2014

    I find that in the morning i still feel tired even though i have had 8 hours uninterupted sleep. I then have to rush around even though i have given myself plenty of time to get ready to chase after my kids who never do anything they are told, to get them ready for school, i have to feed the animals and drop the kids to school. I then get home and want too fall asleep again but i have to sort the animals out and do the housework even after all of this i have still gained over 5 stone in weight in the last 3 years. I have found that since the sun has been out i have put the rabbits out early and hung the washing out under the warmth of the sun and have lost 5 pounds so there must be something to this !!!

    • Alex

      Reply Reply July 28, 2014

      Emma, thanks so much for sharing, reading your visuals gave me a bit of a chuckle! Congrats on those first 5 pounds, morning light works wonders. Also something we teach in our Advanced Clinical Weight Loss Diploma is that exhaustion/stress leads to increased food consumption, so definitely take some time for yourself every day, something as simple as changing the context (a short walk, a 10-minute nap) can reset the brain and re-energise you :-)

  • Susie C

    Reply Reply July 28, 2014

    I think I am more of a night owl but I love your tips because I really struggle to wake up in the morning, I am always late for work, something I have been trying to change but it seems impossible now.

    I agree that the exercise guidelines are proposterous Lol… and I am not sure I am prepared to comfront my older self, scary thought!

    I will try the kitchen exercises as I cook dinner tonight! Great stuff Alex

  • Libby

    Reply Reply July 28, 2014

    I can appreciate all these tips in here for sure, even though I am am morning person.
    And a morning exerciser.
    If I do not get it done in the morning, I’m toast.
    And I get up before the birds, out the door walking by 5:30am.

    That older self thing is a good reflection indeed.
    Many times we don’t even go there in thought until an uh-oh moment happens.
    then we paddle around to get ourselves leveled again.

    thanks for this!

  • Grace Louoe

    Reply Reply August 23, 2014

    I work night shift 7pm-7am…I’ve tried to go gym after work but I’m so exhausted..any suggestions for night owl?

    • admin

      Reply Reply August 23, 2014

      Grace, great idea for a future post, thanks for sharing, we’ll add it to our editorial calendar :-)

    • Brenda Jacobi

      Reply Reply December 18, 2014

      Grace, from what I’ve gathered via this article I’m curious how you would feel about walking outdoors (in the am afterwork) as opposed to hitting the gym… (Maybe starting with the suggestion to begin with the length of a favorite song followed by 5 minutes) It seems to me it would expose you to morning sunlight (though I have no idea if there is a specific time in the am to use as a benchmark) I never feel like going to bed when I get home from work even though I work about 12 hours or so myself.

      I would also be curious as to how you might enjoy these walks should they be about connecting and enjoying your moments in nature as opposed to hurrily rushing by so as to “exercise”…

      Call me… Curious! These are the questions and suggestions I have.

  • Maria

    Reply Reply January 1, 2015

    Hi, I also struggle with waking up early. I work afternoon shifts and that doesn’t motivate me to get up early. I have a toddler, and I always give him breakfast late. Poor little man. No matter how early I sleep I still don’t want to get out of bed. So lazy I am in the morning. But after breakfast, I feel more energetic. Do you have any suggestions for me?

    • Jane

      Reply Reply January 1, 2015

      Oxford City Council just decided to close our pools and exercise centre last week! We are bereft! Please look at our wacky song https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mD6-WQZn0S8 and also the blog at http://www.SaveTempleCowleyPools.webs.com for information of how you can spread awareness of our campaign urgently.
      Many of us cannot do other forms of exercise and cannot access any other site. We exercise for our health. I have damaged spine and MS and cannot walk if I don’t swim Please help us get the government to help us. 25,000 signatures but people are being ignored by Labour led council. Please help. Please get in touch just to send us your love and sympathy. Share. Thank you :)

  • Molly

    Reply Reply January 3, 2015

    I’ve tried working out in the morning and absolutely loved it! It was hard to get up earlier, as I’m quite stuck in my routine, of like said above, waking up, showering and brushing my teeth. The Few times I did get up early to work out I felt great!! It’s definitely the motivation to continue to get up day after day and work out early. I know I’ve enjoyed it, so it’s up to me to find the right method of motivation to get me going. I find it especially hard when my husband is on night shift. He works until 6am and all I want to do is cuddle with him until the last possible minute! I’ll even shower at night so I can spend that extra 15 minutes in bed beside him.

  • Daphne

    Reply Reply February 19, 2015

    I was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism (under active thyroid) about 8 years ago. I sleep an average 2 hours a night since then and I wake with awful sweats, I won’t take sleeping tablets as they make me feel awful next day but I still get up early and hit the gym. I have always been a morning person and I think my body is now used to the lack of sleep!!!! I am not over weight but find it hard to lose it.

  • Brenda Jacobi

    Reply Reply February 19, 2015

    Interesting, Daphne. I too (once upon a time) was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism. (I took myself off Synthroid because I don’t like pharmaceuticals and I didn’t notice a difference (energy wise) whether I took it or not. I didn’t have the sleep issues you speak of though I have begun to sleep less (4-5 hours a night) and sometimes I wake up sweaty… I have believed it has been on account of being menopausal… I am in the midst of reading a good book by Alisa Vitti, a nutritionalist, called Woman Code. I’m only halfway through though her philosophy is eating to feed your endocrine system which all begins with stabilizing a healthy blood sugar, supporting your adrenal glands and feeding your endocrine system based upon the needs of your body as a woman (where you are in your cycle).

    I’m really enjoying it especially with what I am learning here in my nutritional program. I wish you well.

    And, Maria, I feel for you. I have struggled most of my life to get out of bed with energy. (I have six children and I tucked them back into bed with me for some snuggle time when they were little when I could get away with it. They are doing just fine! They are in college, graduated, high school and middle school.) I have done many different “diet” forms of eating. I seem to have had the most energy when I ate vegetable soup (that I made) for breakfast and when I incorporated Shakeology into my morning. (I am not a consultant. I have tried many “protein shakes” and Shakeology is simply the one I like the most and the only one I noticed an improvement in how I feel and the energy I have. (I have to mix it with ice or it doesn’t have the consistency I prefer. I also add 5 Alive Green Vitality and my goDesanna Green Clay to it because it’s just more good stuff, easily consumed that’s good for me! Have fun finding what works for you!

  • Lydia

    Reply Reply May 26, 2015

    I always walk my dog after I wake up as I know she probably needs to go outside and use the bathroom. Even though we have a house, there is no yard we can use. So, walking is done 2-3 times a day with her. Now the problem is getting up! Sometimes I can’t get up because I can’t fall asleep at night, sometimes I am up until 3 am. I’ve tried baths, reading, etc. but nothing seems to help. My energy level is also not high in the morning. Any advice?

  • Alejandro Salcedo

    Reply Reply May 27, 2015

    I always was a morning person, I always use to get up before 6am and run for an hour. Did that for decades. But I moved to a cold country and couldn’t cope with the freezing mornings even in Summer (NZ South Is.). Now struggle to get up at any time. What I did to improve was to eat early dinner and less quantity and gradually getting better in the mornings. Still not as I use to be.

    • Larissa

      Reply Reply June 7, 2015

      Hi Alejandro, did you use to eat before exercising in the morning?

  • Larissa

    Reply Reply June 7, 2015

    Hi, If I would choose to eat in the morning before exercise. I was thinking of going to the gym in the morning before start my activities.
    But I´m kind of afraid to become dizzy in the middle of the exercises because I´m empty stomach.
    What would you tell me about it?
    Is it possible to be sick with some hard exercise in the morning with empty stomach, or it is only something I´ve created in my mind.
    Allow me to know what´s the best choice

  • Debby Green

    Reply Reply January 30, 2016

    Morning exercise is part of my daily life and I suppose that I am now addicted to it! After my morning coffee/s.. A brisk walk of about 30 minutes gets my body warmed up and my mind time to clear itself, in the outdoors. Luckily, I have countryside around me and I take time to appreciate the scenery, weather (and it can be pretty grey, wet & windy in Scotland!), before continuing my day with emails and work. I try to exercise after work too, either walking home from work or cycling a 6 mile circuit, before a very sedentary evening, when I feel I deserve to rest!
    If my routine does not allow me to fulfil my daily exercise rituals/practice, I feel totally out of sorts, but try to make it up the following day.

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