Rough day at the office? Take a walk or head to the gym for a quick workout. One of the most common mental benefits of exercise is stress relief. Working up a sweat can help manage physical and mental stress. Exercise also increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress. So go ahead and get sweaty — working out can reduce stress and boost the body’s ability to deal with existing mental tension. Win-win!
Exercise stretches muscles and joints, which in turn can increase flexibility and help prevent injuries. Exercise may also improve balance by increasing strength of the tissues around joints and throughout the body, thus helping to prevent falls. Weight-bearing exercise, such as brisk walking and weight training, strengthens bones and helps prevent osteoporosis. Exercise often can improve function and reduce pain in people with osteoarthritis, although regimens must be developed specifically for each person, and exercises that put undue strain on joints, such as jumping and running, may need to be avoided.
Get in plank position with your hands wider than shoulder-width apart (A). Lower your chest as close to the floor as you can. Holding that position, lift your right knee to the outside of your right elbow (B). Return to plank position, then push back up to start; repeat on the other side. That's one rep. Do three sets of 12 to 15 reps, resting for 30 seconds between sets.
This one is a big one, since inflammation may be an underlying cause of a wide range of diseases and disorders in both body and brain. Exercise is known to reduce a number of inflammatory markers, like c-reactive protein (CRP) and internleukin-6 (IL-6), which are linked to a number of diseases. “The thing about exercise is that it has a multitude of effects on many different organs and systems,” says Suzi Hong, who studies exercise and immune system activation at the UC San Diego School of Medicine, “so often it is difficult to pinpoint which organ systems are influenced and which ones are not with which specific effects for what conditions… The anti-inflammatory effects of exercise are likely one of the underpinnings of its effects against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, certain cancers, neurodegenerative conditions and more.”
Ah, the push-up. While lunges are a unilateral exercise, push-ups are a compound exercise. Compound exercises use several muscle groups at once. This classic move engages your core, biceps, triceps, deltoids, and lower body—and that’s just to keep you stabilized. Using this many muscle groups at once causes your heart to work harder to get oxygen-rich blood to your muscles. So, in short, push-ups can also be a form of cardiovascular exercise that increases heart health.
Exhale and use your triceps to lift the weight until your right arm is fully extended behind you. Supinate by turning your palm up as your arm moves back, so that your palm faces the ceiling. Move only your forearm and do not use your left hand or your legs. Pause once your right arm is fully extended, inhale, and then exhale as you bring the free weight back to the starting position.
Stubborn arm fat can make it difficult to wear short-sleeved tops comfortably due to poor fit or poor self-image. Although you cannot spot-reduce fat from the body, you can lose arm fat by adopting a healthy lifestyle, committing to an exercise routine and eating a nutritious diet. Schedule cardio five times per week, and strength-training three times per week, to slim down your arms.
“Being active as we age can play a role in cognitive function, and reduce the risk of disease such as dementia and Alzheimer's,” says Amanda Paluch, a postdoctoral researcher at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Research has explored several mechanisms, finding that exercise can increase synaptic plasticity and strength of nerve impulses in the brain, and have a positive effect on the hippocampus.”
It’s happened to the best of us: We gear up, cue up a killer cycling routine, and head straight for the gym— only to find out it’s temporarily closed (curse you, maintenance!). With heavy hearts and glutes dying to feel the burn, we sullenly make our way back home. At this point, you may be tempted to give up for the remainder of the day, but don’t change out of your gym clothes just yet! You already have the only workout machine you need on you.
McAlpine's favorite on-the-go exercise is a classic for a reason: Push-ups are one of the most effective bodyweight exercises around. "Primarily, this move will target your chest, triceps, and your anterior deltoid muscles (the front of your shoulders)," says McAlpine. It also seriously works your core. Plus, there's something that just feels badass about working on push-ups and seeing yourself improve over time. "I personally love that feeling of strength that comes from this simple move," says McAlpine.