Good Morning Exercise

Good exercise is Cardio

When thinking about any good morning exercise routines they will have a few things in common but perhaps the biggest thing is that they wake your body up.  Now, most of us sleep during the night and are awake during the day – or some version of eyes open while drooling in front of a desktop at least. These sleep/ awake states govern most of our physiological functions from recovery and repair to movement and thinking. They can be broken into two major physiological functions and will help you to better understand why “morning” exercise is so important.

The primary function of the parasympathetic nervous system is to ‘rest and digest’ and the sympathetic nervous system is all about ‘fight or flight’. The reason these are relevant is because they work on opposite shifts. One deals with the night-time shift – the parasympathetic – and the other deals with the daytime – the sympathetic. However, in order for them to best function they need to rely on key hormones. The night shift needs melatonin to get the body in a state of rest and the day shift needs adrenaline to put you in a state of being awake. Yes, but how does this relate to best morning exercises I hear you ask?

Well it relates because in order to look at good morning exercise routines, they should efficiently activate your awake or sympathetic nervous system and they can do this by increasing the production and secretion of adrenaline.  This is how it works; when you elevate your heart rate by doing cardio and aerobic exercise, your body releases more adrenaline. This is because the cardiovascular system is fuelled by adrenaline and cortisol so in order to elevate your heart rate you need to elevate your adrenaline. In turn this puts your body in a state of fight or flight and wakes up your sympathetic nervous system which means blood, nutrients and oxygen floods your muscles and brain. This means you will kick start your day, in fact you supercharge it! Best results for a good morning exercise routine will come from elevating your heart rate higher, for example above 70% of your VO2 max (maximum heart rate). But, what should you do? Should you run, should you jump?

Image of Heart beat

Morning exercise and Oxygen

Pumping your heart faster than a jack rabbit will of course have huge hormonal benefits for waking you up but there’s more to this story. You see, when you increase your heart rate you increase your breathing rate (like when you are running up a steep hill) because with more movement your body needs more oxygen. The major difference between cardiovascular (CV) and resistance exercise is that when you are doing CV your body is primarily fuelled by oxygen which is called aerobic exercise. Here’s why this is such good news for a morning exercise routine; as soon as your breathing rate goes up it doesn’t just send oxygen to your muscles, it also sends increased levels to the brain. This means your brain wakes up and is able to function more effectively as a result. But that’s not all that happens to your brain…

How Good Morning Exercise can make you think and feel better

When you wake up your sympathetic nervous system you also wake up some very potent hormones and neurotransmitters. Of course, you have likely heard of the ‘runners high’ which refers to the release of dopamine and serotonin.  However, recent studies have indicated that you’ll likely need to exercise at a very high intensity to get a release of these hormones and transmitters. That’s why we believe doing a few minutes at a very high intensity to almost maximum heart rate will deliver the best morning exercise results.

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What morning routine is best?

We believe that High Intensity Interval Training holds the key, as you are able to elevate your heart rate upwards of 90% which in turn will boost adrenaline levels but also give your body time to recover. In addition to that you can get a massive boost from just a matter of minutes and get huge results in stimulating your sympathetic nervous system to wake up and your body and mind along with it. Here are the 7 best morning exercise moves:

  1. Star jumps (jumping jacks) – This one is great as it’s easier on the joints than some of the other plyometric moves, but due to lifting your arms up it still elevates the heart rate quite nicely:

Do this for 1 minute or until failure.

Woman doing Star Jumps

2. Squat jumps – You can vary the range and the height of the jump to suit your fitness levels and physical requirements but this one blasts the legs and gives maximum results in minimum time.

Do this for 1 minute or until failure.

Woman doing squats

3. Run on spot – this ole favourite doesn’t require much coordination and is easy to increase or decrease the intensity by simply lifting the knees higher or moving faster or slower etc.

Do this for 1 minute or until failure.

Woman jogging

4. Split jumps – This one is fun to do and easy on the joints too. You can add forward or sky punches to increase the intensity as you get fitter each morning.

Do this for 1 minute or until failure.

5. Burpee – Of course everyone’s worst exercise, but for one minute this will give you more results than any of the others above or below so is always a must in any morning exercise routine.

Do this for 1 minute or until failure. 

6. Skipping rope – For those new to skipping this can be frustrating at first as it may feel like every jump you catch your feet, but this is a case where persistence pays off. If you give yourself 1 minute of skipping each day, within no time you will be able to keep a consistent pace for the full minute and as a result feel great too.

Do this for 1 minute or until failure.

Man skipping with rope

7. Side lunges – great exercise to target and tone the glutes and thighs and one that you can adjust by going lower or faster to elevate the heart higher.

Do this for 1 minute or until failure.


When you wake up you should stimulate your sympathetic nervous system by elevating your heart rate and sending oxygen and blood flow around your body and kick starting your adrenal activity. When you do this you will wake yourself up and wake up happy hormones that will boost mental alertness and clarity.

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Anthony Delamare - Health and Fitness Coach and Co-Founder at 7 Minute Mornings