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Wellness

5 Ways to Improve Your Morning Routine, According to Experts

April 28, 2016

Top docs, psychologists and dietitians explain how they optimize their a.m. hours

Whether you’re an early bird or the definitive opposite of a morning person, a mounting body of research shows that exactly what you do (or don’t do) during the first few hours of your day makes a huge impact on your happiness, productivity levels and even your overall health.

Here are seven simple expert-backed ways that you can tweak your morning routine for major all-day benefits. Bonus: They might also turn you into a morning person.

1. Shift to a morning workout schedule
Besides allowing you to get in your daily workout before, well, life happens, morning workouts have a way improving your entire day. “I have more energy on the days when I work out in the mornings, rather than in the evenings,” says Dr. James Ting, a board-certified sports medicine physician in California, who notes that morning exercise can improve energy levels, slash stress and reduce food cravings throughout the rest of your day.

Read more: 6 Ways to Trick Yourself Into Enjoying Your Next Workout

2. Sit down for breakfast
You know you need to eat breakfast. But grab-and-go breakfast bars and meals eaten in the car don’t cut it. “Sitting down to breakfast pays off in a lot of ways,” says dietitian Georgie Fear, R.D., who starts her mornings with a veggie omelet and fruit pancakes. “You’ll eat more slowly, which gives you a better chance to sense when you’re satisfied to prevent overeating,” she says. “It also helps prevent starting your day off in a stressful hurry. Taking time to put your butt in a chair is impactful. It means that you’re making yourself a priority.”

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3. Be an active commuter
Walking or pedaling to work is a great way to get in that morning workout, improve your fitness, energy levels and focus at work, Ting says. But since it’s generally lower-key than high-intensity interval workouts—you don’t want to get sweaty right before your morning meetings—it provides an opportunity to get your mind right, decompress and even engage in a sort of active meditation. “I find it opens my mind and body before spending a day sitting still and listening to my patients,” explains Manhattan-based psychologist Paul Hokemeyer, who notes that spending time both outside and in green spaces is consistently linked with better mental health. “The noises, smells, lights and magnificence of city’s sky scape take me out of my obsessive thoughts and into the world around me.”

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4. Go ahead and have some coffee
Coffee may help improve cognitive function, and caffeine is a legitimate ergogenic aid, helping to improve physical performance and make your morning workouts feel easier, says Fear. Hokemeyer even sets his coffee timer at night so that a fresh cup of coffee is the first thing to greet him in the morning.

5. Don’t hit snooze
Hitting snooze just doesn’t result any sort of quality sleep. “When I was younger, I used to snooze 15 times before I finally got up,” says board-certified sleep medicine physician W. Christopher Winter, owner of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine in Virginia. “But I would have been better off just setting my alarm for when I actually had to get up and realistically would, which is what I do now.” That’s because, every time you wake up, hit snooze and then roll back over, you enter a brand-new new sleep cycle—so any extra sleep you do get is light and fragmented. You’ll feel much more rested if you just get up with the first alarm, says Winter.