While an early morning walk, fresh out of bed, can help with weight loss and metabolism, the greatest benefit may be the ability to wake up and become alert, without using caffeine.
From jitters, headaches, fatigue, to dependency and other issues arising from caffeine crashes, we all know that too much coffee doesn't help.
One study found that moderately intense bouts of exercise increased working memory. It may also reduce caffeine withdrawal, but not conclusive. 1
Another found that the improvement of cognitive alertness right after an exercise session had almost instantaneous results. 2.
In fact, another study found that 10 minutes of brisk exercise actually has the same effect as 50mg of caffeine. 3
Why not try a brisk morning walk?
If you are an early morning person, who wants to get a start on the day, but find it hard to focus after waking up, read this.
I tested this out myself. Sometimes I would take a short 5-minute walk around the block. It had little effect, and I was still groggy. But when I made it a 10-15 minute walk, and picked up the pace, I don't know how to describe it; . . . whether endorphins, or natural "wake-up" chemicals or something, but I experienced a jolt of energy and awakeness that I thought was only available by drinking coffee. In fact, even on mornings with less-than-perfect sleep, I had 1-2 hours of alert focus, and felt fully awake. And yet no coffee, no tea. Just water. All before breakfast.
Based on research, here are some keys for effective alertness-exercise:
- 10-15 minutes minimum time
- Intense enough for elevated heart rate and breathing
- Not too long though, or it could have the opposite effect of fatigue
Consider stairs, treadmill, neighborhood walks, short hikes and trails, biking, jogging or other moderately intense exercise.
So, next time you think you have to have a cup of joe to wake up, try the healthier alternative instead.
- Mike Cutler writes about outdoors and travel and is a product tester for Earth Trek Gear. He lives with his family in Reno Nevada and enjoys hiking in California's Sierra Nevada mountains.
1. Morava, A., Fagan, M.J. & Prapavessis, H. Effects of Caffeine and Acute Aerobic Exercise on Working Memory and Caffeine Withdrawal. Sci Rep 9, 19644 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-56251-y
2. Harvard Women's Health Watch
3. Stair walking is more energizing than low dose caffeine in sleep deprived young women
Derek D.RandolphPatrick J.O'Connor
Department of Kinesiology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602-6554, United States
Received 18 November 2016, Revised 3 March 2017, Accepted 10 March 2017, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031938416310666