How well we sleep largely revolves around our circadian rhythm, aka your body’s internal clock that regulates when we feel sleepy versus alert. If you want quality sleep, you’ll need to get your circadian rhythm, well, in a rhythm.
And according to licensed clinical psychologist and author of The Sleep Prescription Aric Prather, Ph.D., exercising at the same time every day is one of the best ways to do that. “[Physical activity] has been shown to be effective in maintaining people’s circadian rhythms, [and] doing physical activity, ideally, around the same time each day, will train your rhythm [and] allow you to make it more predictable for your body,” Prather explains on an episode of the mindbodygreen podcast.
Exercising (particularly, intense exercise that raises your core body temperature) within two hours of bedtime can make it difficult to fall asleep for some people. This makes the morning a prime time to get a workout in—especially if you’re able to do it outside.
This way, you’ll get morning light, which will help train your circadian rhythm, and you’ll get some energy to carry with you into the rest of your day. Even the ancient tradition of Ayurveda has long taught that exercise is best between 6 and 10 a.m.
Of course, if your schedule doesn’t allow for morning workouts, any movement is certainly better than none—just try to do it a few hours before your planned bedtime.
And in terms of what kind of workout to do, any exercise that you enjoy and keep up with is a great start. But if you’re looking specifically to promote sleep, one 2011 study published in the journal Sleep Medicine found that engaging in regular moderate aerobic exercise1 (zone 2 cardio) like slowly jogging or riding a bike improved sleep quality and reduced the time it took participants to fall asleep. Participants also reported feeling more rested in the morning.
So, make the most of your mornings with some good old-fashioned cardio! And if you’re looking for inspiration, check out our beginner’s guide to running, take your treadmill out for a spin with this sequence, or do the following cardio training set you can squeeze into the busiest of mornings.