Every morning when my alarm clock rings, I feel someone start to move next to me. I open my eyes and am greeted by a smile as I run my hands through dark hair and gaze into beautiful brown eyes. As romantic as this may sound, the one next to me is not a lover, it's my dog. Cleo, my 3 year old French Brittany,still has the energy of a pup and has had to spend way more time than I'd like lying around my apartment since we moved to Phoenix. Although she seems to have gotten used to her city-dog lifestyle, you can imagine how exciting some daily exercise must be to this little "jumping bean" as my mom likes to call her.
I don't know if she can tell by the time of day or if she just knows what the sound of my alarm clock means, but every morning at 7 a.m. she's moving before I can even press snooze. She licks my hand, sniffs my face, and burrows into my side just trying to get me out of bed so we can hit the streets for our 30 minute morning walk. Most of the time I am happy to oblige (barring any illness or wine nights with my roommate) not just for her, but for my own mental and physical well-being.
My friends and I used to jokingly quote Elle Woods from the movie Legally Blond "Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make people happy. Happy people just don't shoot their husbands. They just don't!" While not the most intellectual quote, you have to admit that there's definitely some truth here.
We all know that exercise is good for us and I'm sure most of us have heard that it has mental benefits too, but I didn't know this: According to an article I read in US News, as little as ten minutes of exercise is enough to change your brain chemistry. Even small amounts of exercise can reverse the effects of stress, fight depression, improve learning/memory, boost self-esteem, and (my favorite) increase endorphins and the effects of serotonin and dopamine on the brain. There's a reason they call it "Runner's High!" Just a 20 or 30 minute walk is enough to change my entire day. Some of my best ideas and clearest thoughts have come to me while walking/running in the morning.
I also feel a lot better knowing that no matter what happens in my day, I've already gotten some exercise. I always start my week with good intentions of going straight to the gym after, work, but very rarely am I able to follow through on those promises. It's almost like I'm tricking myself. I just get up and do it before I even have the option of becoming "too busy or too tired to exercise."
And while there are so many benefits to a little walk in the morning, I can't very well write about exercise without paying some attention to calories In fact, someone told me a while ago that a fast walk can actually burn more calories than running. I was a little skeptical so I did some googling and it looks like the jury is still out on that one. According to thatsfit.com, it depends on the intensity for the run and/or the intensity of the walk. This makes sense to me. Either way, calories are calories and I'm always looking for a fun and entertaining way to burn them so I can have that afternoon piece of chocolate or glass of wine in the evening.
So, whether you get up and moving for the sake of your furry friend, your sanity, or your waistline; find peace in knowing that all of the above are being positively effected by just a few minutes out of your day :)