Note from Carolyn: As the summer winds down Jane Birch and I want to announce that we will be extending the Word of Wisdom Health Challenge into the fall, so be looking for updates on that with my article next week!


Two beautiful and smiling sister missionaries greeted my husband and I before 7:00 a.m. this morning at a nearby trail and pond where we’d gone for a walk to start the day. Were they looking for contacts? Teaching? Training? Or doing service work? Nope. They were jogging and getting their exercise in right as scheduled in the missionary rules to “rise at 6:30 a.m. and exercise.”

I was glad to see them and knew that whether they wanted to be exercising or not, they were perfect in fulfilling two things: 1) the need for their bodies to exercise and 2) the need for their spirits to be obedient to the mission rules. While some missionaries, like our son who served in Brazil, are allowed to use the many miles they walk each day as their acceptable exercise, most are required to spend 30 minutes first thing with some kind of exercise program.

We reviewed this with our class of preparing missionaries this past week where we serve as the Missionary Preparation (Religion 130) teachers for our stake institute. As we talked about the importance of early morning exercise, one returned missionary who was there to help us that night shared, “While it doesn’t seem like a big deal whether you exercise or not, it really is a very simple indicator to tell if a missionary’s heart is into the work. It’s so easy to sleep for another 30 minutes, let other things absorb that time, or may do a few half-hearted sit-ups or push-ups. I very much appreciated my companions who exercised every day like we were supposed to and starting a successful day by just keeping the rules. In fact the FIRST rule of the day.”

We also discussed that arising on time and exercising are much like the Law of Tithing: Getting up on time, exercising and paying your tithing are among the few commandments that are black and white, done or not done. Either you did, or you did not.

Oh, aren’t most of us absolutely proficient in avoiding exercise unless there’s some kind of real incentive or accountability from an outside source? The personal evidence of this truth is now in a box sitting in my garage that will be donated to charity next week. While clearing closets and shelves this summer I’ve come across more weight loss and exercise videos, DVDs, equipment and books than I care to mention.

“Tony Little”, “Ten Minute Trainer”, “Buns of Steel”, “8-Minute Abs”, “Hip-Hop Abs” “Bod for God,” “Richard Simmons”, etc., etc.. There are high priced squeezer gadgets, flex bands, straps, a slider and wheelie thingies as well. (Thank goodness for Weight Watchers who, since my BYU days in the early 70’s gave me enough of a healthy-eating foundation that I avoided the serious weight issues that most surely would surely have been my situation otherwise. I have slowly evolved from Weight Watchers into primarily whole-food plant-based eating.)

Although my weight has been at a reasonably acceptable place for many years, oh how I have longed to lose a stubborn 10-15 pounds that came with my last child who was born when I was nearly 40. This past year my focus switched from looking better on the outside to addressing the far more important internal issues of my genetically based osteoporosis. You can read more here. It turns out that the best exercise for that is also excellent for toning and strengthening. I began working out with free weights, a cable machine and a stair climber. I teamed it with whole-food and plant based eating through the Word of Wisdom Challenge with Jane Birch, In the process I finally lost the10-15 pounds and several dress sizes since last February. My stamina, energy and strength have greatly increased, and I have high hopes that it will all be as helpful for my osteoporosis as well. I have my golden ticket for life!

As I began to make progress, I discovered that I had not been working near hard enough all those years and that doing it first thing in the morning was and continues to be numero uno. No wonder nothing happened with those other programs. I was approaching them far too casually and not exerting half the physical or mental effort required to make anything happen. By working harder and earlier, it has been a lot more consistent, even fun (!) and the results show.

In spiritual terms, we all know that this is the Lord’s counsel for us: ” arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.” (D&C 88:124). The missionary department has taken that truth and given it top billing in how missionaries are to structure their day.

Scientifically speaking, Tina Scmidt-McNulty, exercise physiologist and clinical exercise specialist on staff at Purdue University Calumet’s Fitness Center, says “Early morning workouts rev up your metabolism, jump start your energy level and accelerate your ability to burn up calories,” Early morning workouts give you a chance to put the world on hold for an hour and think about the upcoming events and activities of the day, or think about whatever you want to think about,” she said. “Exercise also gets the endorphins flowing, so when you finish you are relaxed and in a good mood to start the rest of your day.”

Physically speaking, here are 5 more reasons why exercising in the morning is really best, not just for missionaries but for everyone: (From

1. A Consistent Workout

A big barrier to getting enough exercise is often the fact that it’s hard to fit it into a daily schedule. It’s more difficult with family schedules, babies, or work unpredictable hours, or a somewhat spontaneous social life. If you commit to working out in the morning, however, you’re way less likely to have the excuse of things just popping up. Plus, you won’t be exhausted from a rough or busy day. In fact, people who work out in the morning have shown to stick to their exercise plans better than people who plan to exercise after work.


2. Better Cardiovascular Impact

Working out in the morning can actually increase the impact that exercise has on your heart. Why? One of the ways that your body naturally wakes you up is by increasing levels of hormones like adrenaline, which causes your heart to beat faster.

This means that you can eke out some extra cardiovascular benefits when you work out in the morning.

A caveat: if you have heart problems, talk to your doctor about working out in the morning, because research has shown that this extra heart activity can lead to chest pain and even heart attacks for people with underlying issues.


3. Brain Boosting Power

Exercise has been proven to increase mental focus and acuity for up to ten whole hours post-workout. If you’re squeezing in your exercise regimen after work, you’re not taking full advantage of those ten hours, since you’re likely sleeping for most of them. An A.M. workout means that both your brain and your body are in good shape all day.


4. Better Weight Loss

If you’re working out to shed some pounds, it looks like the morning is the optimal exercise time for you. An early trip to the gym has been shown to result in fewer food cravings throughout the day. Perhaps even better, working out in the morning means that your body will burn calories faster and more efficiently throughout the day. Combine that with nutritional foods and you have the perfect workout.


5. More Energy

Exercise releases feel-good compounds like endorphins that improve your mood and energy levels, an effect that can last well into the afternoon if you get your workout in early. Plus, exercising in the morning can help you sleep better than if you work out later in the evening, since you’re not getting that extra energy boost as you’re trying to settle in for the night.

If the Lord, the missionary department and health professionals have a consistent message, who am I to disagree? The truth is that I have found that I really enjoy that 30 minutes in the morning! It’s true that I’m not really awake as I get started, but by just doing it (thank you President Kimball) and turning on the classical music station for my background motivational music and just getting started, my whole day is better! Focus and ideas for the day often occur while I’m working out, and I’m ready to be awake for my scripture study that follows.

Bonus: You only need to get dressed/showered and ready for the day once.

While the missionaries may have actual rules for getting up and exercising, are the same rules not unspoken and of equal value for each of us? As the summer winds down, I am getting ready for my third 12-week Body for Life Challenge, with 30 minutes of exercise in the morning and whole-food plant based eating. I hope you’ll join me! I’ll have more information in my article next week.

In the meantime, following the Lord’s advice and the missionary rules for 30 minutes of exercising in the morning might be just the right place for you to end the summer and start the fall.

Carolyn Allen is the Author of 60 Seconds to Weight Loss Success One Minute Inspirations to Change Your Thinking, Your Weight and Your Life, available at her website.

She has been providing mental and spiritual approaches for weight loss success both online and in the Washington, DC community since 1999 presenting for Weight Watchers, First Class, Fairfax County Adult Education and other community groups.

She and her husband Bob are the parents of five children and grandparents of eight. They live in the Washington D.C. area where they are delighted to teach Missionary Preparation for the Annandale Stake CES Institute program

Learn more about them and the herbal detox product they share at Meridian!