With a regular work schedule, we are usually given 3 different time options to fit in the movement that makes us happy: morning, lunch hour, or evening. It is certainly difficult to change our routines, but if you’d like to get more out of your movement, sleep, and overall health, hear me out.
I have, and will continue to talk everyone’s ear off about the stress hormone, cortisol. Since it is deeply involved with our circadian rhythm, exercise, stress, and energy, so here I am talking about it once again. When we wake up from a night’s sleep, we like to see our cortisol levels rise in the body in order to help us feel refreshed, energized, and ready to get started with the day. You might be reading this, saying to yourself, “well that sounds great, but never actually happens for me”. If so, you are not at all alone.
Feeling sluggish and needing plenty of time (and coffee) before starting your day, is common, but not normal. You see, most of us living in a stressful, modern society have an imbalance, low, or almost non-existent cortisol awakening response, or CAR. This can be caused by a variety of things, including but not limited to: autoimmune conditions, irregular sleep patterns, chronic stress, under-eating, sedentary lifestyle, and/or an undiagnosed condition relating to the HPA axis.
If we can create a healthy curve for that CAR, we will regulate our circadian rhythm; this is followed by sustainable energy throughout the day, and restful sleep at night. Sounds lovely, right?
What are some things we can practice to begin working toward this goal? We have now circled back to the title of this post. Exercise and movement will create a natural stress on the body, so when we exercise in the morning, we can manually increase our cortisol levels at the beginning of the day. And when we do so alongside a natural sunrise/photoperiod, our body is releasing cortisol at the proper time to reset our circadian rhythm.
There can be another common issue we see with cortisol, where those who are experiencing chronic stress develop a cortisol resistance, showing it at very high levels, but cellularly functioning at a low level. We see this happening so common in modern society. Humans have always had this ability to manually increase our cortisol levels, but only in particular periods of time (such as escaping from a predator). After that jump in cortisol, the body will let it quickly drop and stay low for the rest of the day. But today, we are stressed and sedentary on a consistent basis, never allowing for the cortisol to drop because no energy was actually exerted – this is cortisol resistance in so many words. This issue can be found with those who have difficulty with weight loss or some inexplicable weight gain. But, it is another area and opportunity for morning exercise to help.
If we move our bodies and exert energy in the morning, we can force that increase and quick drop in cortisol to, once again, manually mimic the circadian rhythm our bodies crave for optimal functioning.
Some other things we can do during this morning movement to help the process:
● Move outside
● Walk for 45-60 minutes
● Expose your eyes to early morning light
Happy morning moving!