What's the first thing you do in the morning when you get out of bed? If you're anything like me, it's some form of scrambling around to get coffee and get to work. But the benefits of morning walks can be plentiful for both your physical and mental well-being — so much so that they might actually convince you to make them a part of your own routine. I mean, there are worse ways to greet the day than taking a nice stroll to get a coffee and enjoy the morning air, right?
But for real, beyond being simply pleasant, new research published in Hypertension, a scientific journal of the American Heart Association (AHA), found that morning walks, as well as brief walking breaks scattered throughout the day, appear to be linked with reduced blood pressure.
Per a press release from the AHA, researchers based in Australia wanted to look at whether the beneficial effects of morning exercise on blood pressure were canceled out, so to speak, by sitting for the rest of the day. Additionally, the researchers wanted to see if taking short, but frequent walking breaks throughout the day might help to enhance any benefits associated with morning fitness. Michael Wheeler, B.Sc., the lead author of the study, said in a statement for the press release,
Traditionally, the health effects of exercise and sedentary behavior have been studied separately. We conducted this study because we wanted to know whether there is a combined effect of these behaviors on blood pressure.
For the study, the researchers recruited 67 men and women between 55 and 80 years old, and told all of them to, in a random order, complete the same three tasks (with at least six days in between each task): uninterrupted sitting for eight hours; one hour of sitting, followed by 30 minutes of treadmill walking, followed by six and a half hours of sitting; and one hour of sitting, followed by 30 minutes on the treadmill, followed by more sitting for six and a half hours, but with added three-minute breaks of "light intensity walking" every 30 minutes, per the AHA's press release. All along the way, the researchers kept track of the participants' blood pressure levels to see how these different approaches affected their bodies.
Ultimately, the press release explains, the researchers found that just 30 minutes of walking in the morning was linked to reduced blood pressure, with "further benefits" found in those who engaged in morning exercise plus walking breaks throughout the day (though the additional walking-breaks benefits were only seen in women in the study, not in men).
You know what that means, right? Hell yes: Taking breaks throughout your work or school day is definitely a good idea — for your blood pressure, yes, but I'd venture to guess that the same might be true for your mind, as well. In fact, according to Dr. Reshmi Saranga, adult and geriatric psychiatrist at Saranga Comprehensive Psychiatry, a morning stroll can be a fantastic way to begin the day, simply because it can set the tone toward positivity.
“Morning walks have immense benefits for both your mental and physical health," Dr. Saranga tells Elite Daily. "The morning hours can feel overwhelming when you realize all that you have to accomplish in the upcoming day. Taking a relaxing walk in nature sets you on the right path to have a great day. You will have less stress, feel more relaxed, have better focus throughout the day, more energy, and you’ll feel a better overall sense of calm and peace."
If you decide to start walking more in your own routine, Dr. Saranga suggests using that time to connect with yourself, and keeping your mind, body, and soul in the present moment. In other words, maybe your morning walk isn't the best time to simultaneously catch up on your Instagram feed. Instead, pick a relaxing playlist, pop your ear buds in, and simply walk, taking in your surroundings as you do so.