Exercising first thing in the morning is tough, but according to research, well worth it — both for your body, and for your mind. A recent study from the University of Western Australia found that short, early morning workouts boost cognitive performance throughout the day, improving productivity and decision-making abilities. What’s more, exercising earlier in the day supports weight loss by prompting the body to burn fat faster and regulating your appetite.

The evidence speaks for itself: Working out in the morning is good for you. But how can you ensure you actually get up and do it? That’s where your Microstep comes in: Lay out your workout clothing the night before, and make this a part of your nighttime routine.

It may sound trivial, but there’s science to back it up: The habits we practice before we go to sleep affect how well we sleep, and how we feel in the morning.

Setting yourself up for morning workout success the night before is also beneficial in terms of managing your cognitive load, says Jesse Rio Russell, Ph.D, former assistant professor of International Relations at Seton Hall University, who researches decision making and behavior change. “Engaging in good behavior and making good decisions is often shaped by cognitive load, which represents everything going on around you that demands some part of your attention. When there are too many things forcing their way into your cognitive load, your brain starts looking for the easiest fastest way out. Too much load, like a busy morning getting ready for work, can make the decision to work out get lost in an effort to reduce that load.” To avoid that trap, Russell notes that committing to your workout plan when your load is lowest, like before bed, will lead to healthier choices. And by prepping your morning workout while you’re more relaxed (and not trying to race out the door the next morning, unable to remember where you left your gym shoes), you’re creating an easier path for your brain the next day, when your cognitive load is higher. 

In short, making choices in a moment when you have less time pressure sets your future, busier self up for success. “What it does is remove barriers to the desired behavior,’” says Talya Miron-Shatz, Ph.D., a decision scientist and visiting researcher at Cambridge University. “The idea is that you want to exercise, but in the morning we’re slow, and everything is complicated. This is a barrier. In the evening, when we’re more on top of it, we lay out the clothes — problem solved.”

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