Morning Exercise and Cognitive Fitness

Strategic exercise timing may support brain health.

By Shirley Archer, JD, MA
Sep 23, 2019

There may be something to the adage “The early bird catches the worm,” and it’s good news for those who love early-morning workouts. Not only is sunrise training an invigorating way to start the day; it may also stimulate adequate blood flow levels to the brain throughout the day, even during lengthy periods of inactivity.

Researchers wanted to evaluate whether moderate-intensity morning exercise, with or without breaks during subsequent prolonged sitting, enhanced blood flow to the brain in older adults. Participants were 12 overweight and obese men and women, ages 55–80.

“What we found was that during uninterrupted sitting, there was a pattern of decline in brain blood flow over 8 hours,” said lead study author Michael Wheeler, PhDc, of the University of Western Australia in Perth. “However, when participants performed a morning bout of exercise with or without subsequent breaks in sitting, brain blood flow improved in the afternoon, several hours after exercise.”

“Uninterrupted sitting should be avoided,” wrote study authors, “and moderate-intensity exercise should be encouraged for the daily maintenance of cerebral blood flow.”

Find the study in the Journal of Applied Physiology (2019; 126 [4], 1049–55).

See also: How to Master the 5 a.m. Time Slot for Fitness Classes


Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is the 2008 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year and is IDEA's mind-body-spirit spokesperson. She is a certified yoga and Pilates teacher and an award-winning author based in Los Angeles, California, and Zurich, Switzerland. Two of her books, The Walking Deck and The Strength and Toning Deck, are now featured as iPhone apps. Contact her at

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