I Started Taking a Walk Every Morning. Here’s What Happened to My Health


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Since March, I’ve been waking up earlier.

Before that time, I’d typically go to bed at 11 p.m. and naturally wake up between 7:00 and 7:30 a.m.

Then, for some reason, regardless of what time I went to bed, I started spontaneously waking up between 5:30 and 6 a.m. Consequently, I moved my bedtime earlier, too.

I’m not sure why the shift happened; maybe it’s my circadian rhythm changing in middle age.

Brett & Kate McKay • June 20, 2024

By Brett & Kate McKay – Read this article HERE in its entirety on Art of Manliness website

When I first started waking up early, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I mostly read and took care of admin work before the rest of the family woke up.

But then at the start of May, I decided to take a two-mile walk right after I woke up at the buttcrack of dawn. Why? I don’t know. It was something to do mostly. Also, I knew I needed to walk more. I’ve got a pretty dang sedentary job as a blogger/podcaster. I’m on my butt reading, writing, and answering emails for hours every day.

I’ve had plenty of guests on the podcast who talked about the research on just how bad being sedentary is for your health — even if you make time for regular, strenuous exercise every day like I have for over 15 years. An hour of dedicated exercise each day can’t make up for sitting on your butt for the rest of your waking hours.

So, I figured I’d use my newfound time in the morning to move more and get my steps in.

I had zero expectations or specific health goals when I started the daily walking habit.

But I could soon tell from both personal observation and the fitness trackers I use (the Oura ring and the Apple Watch) that it was creating some positive changes in my health.

Here’s what happened after doing a month of my morning walk routine:

My daily steps increased.My daughter Scout likes to check my Apple Watch stats each night when I tuck her in. Back in March, she looked at my daily steps and saw that they were consistently in the 4k to 5k range. “Dad, you really don’t move much during the day,” she’d observe. “You’re kind of a lump.


Ever since I’ve started walking every morning, I usually get 12k to 15k steps a day. Much better. The boost hasn’t come from my morning walk alone; that habit has also had the unintended benefit of getting me moving more in general. I’ll intermittently take 10-minute walking breaks during the day just because I like how it feels to walk. I also get the Scout vote of approval each night when she looks at my watch.


My resting heart rate dropped. Resting heart rate has been shown to be a good indicator of overall fitness and cardiovascular health. A lower resting heart rate means your heart is working more efficiently. Higher resting heart rates have been associated with cardiovascular disease.

A normal resting heart rate for adults is between 60 and 100. Well-trained athletes have a resting heart rate closer to 40.

Before I started walking in the morning, my resting heart rate was usually between 60 and 55. Not terrible.

But after a month of daily walking, my resting heart rate started hovering around 45 — closer to elite athlete level. And I got there just by leisurely walking for 35 minutes every morning.

My heart rate variability increased. Heart rate variability (HRV) is the variation in time intervals between consecutive heartbeats, reflecting the autonomic nervous system’s regulation of the heart. You actually want a lot of variation in your heart rate. High HRV indicates a healthy balance between the sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (rest and digest) systems. Individuals with a high HRV are less stressed and more resilient physically and emotionally. You’re able to perform better physically and mentally when your HRV is high.

Low HRV indicates that your body is under stress due to factors like fatigue, dehydration, overwork, or illness.

Physical exercise, like walking, lowers your HRV by enhancing the parasympathetic (rest and digest) activity of your nervous system. Physical activity also helps your body manage overall stress levels and improves blood flow, two factors that contribute to a lower HRV as well.

Before I started walking every morning, my HRV hovered between 36 ms and 40 ms — not great. Now it’s hovering between 45 and 55 ms. An improvement!

My V02 max improved. VO2 max, or maximal oxygen uptake, is the maximum rate at which your body can consume oxygen during intense exercise. It’s a key indicator of cardiovascular fitness and aerobic endurance. Higher VO2 max values indicate a greater ability of the heart, lungs, and muscles to utilize oxygen, reflecting better overall fitness and endurance levels.

You can improve V02 Max through consistent HIIT or steady-state cardio. The only cardio I’ve been doing this past month is walking every morning.

According to my Apple Watch, at the start of May, my estimated V02 max (emphasis on estimated; I’d need to take an actual V02 max test to get an accurate measurement) was 38.5. Today it’s 42. It’s only a small change, and there’s still a lot of room for improvement, but taking a stroll each morning seems to have helped!

I sleep better at night. While I’m still waking up earlier than I used to, my sleep overallhas improved since starting the morning walk habit.

According to my Oura ring, I fall asleep faster and have more deep sleep and REM sleep. During deep sleep, your body releases hormones to help you grow and recover, and your brain flushes out toxins. REM sleep is when we dream, and as we’ve discussed on the podcast, our brain uses dreams to consolidate memories and make sense of all the stuff we experience during waking time.

I reckon the morning walk has improved my sleep in two ways. First, walking is a great way to build up your sleep pressure. Physical activity helps create adenosine in your brain, which makes you sleepy. The more adenosine you’ve built up during the day, the sleepier you feel at bedtime. When it’s 10 p.m., I’m ready to hit the hay, and as soon as my head hits the pillow, I’m out.

The early morning walks have also likely helped my sleep thanks to the exposure it provides to early morning sunlight.Exposure to sunlight helps regulate our circadian rhythm. Research suggests exposing yourself to sunlight first thing in the morning can get your circadian rhythm in a good groove so that you’re ready to go to sleep when you go to bed and experience better quality sleep when you are sleeping.

I’m in a better mood. We’ve talked about how physical activity is the antidote to both anxiety and depression. It’s all thanks to the endorphins that are released when you move your body.

I’ve noticed an improvement in my mood. I just feel better when I get my morning walks in.

I’ve lost some weight. From January to March, I did a short bulk to go from 185 to 200 pounds. In April, I started cutting calories to get my summer shred on. The goal was to get back down to 187 pounds. Why 187? I feel and look good at that weight. In April, I was able to lower my weight by five pounds by just reducing calories each week. In May, I continued to lower my calories slightly each week, but added in my daily walks. I was able to drop the remaining 10 pounds in just four weeks, and I never felt starved because my calories didn’t get crazy low. Combining calorie restriction with increased energy expenditure from walking turbocharged my weight loss.

Lower heart rate, increased HRV, improved V02 max, deeper sleep, better mood, and reduced body weight.

Solvitur ambulando. It is solved by walking. Damn straight.

I can’t recommend taking a daily walk enough. Two miles takes me about 35 minutes. With just 35 minutes a day, I was able to make some pretty significant improvements in my health in just a month. A small change in your daily routine will net you an outsized number of benefits.

If you haven’t started a regular exercise routine because you feel like you don’t have the time or because you think you have to do a really hard, strenuous workout to get any benefit from exercise, try going for a two-mile walk each day.

Don’t have time or aren’t ready for two miles? Then just do a mile. Something is always better than nothing.

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