A combination of aerobic workouts (which, depending on your fitness level, can include walking, running, swimming, and other vigorous heart-pumping exercise) and strength training (weight lifting, resistance training) is considered best for heart health. These exercises improve the muscles’ ability to draw oxygen from the circulating blood. That reduces the need for the heart—a muscular organ itself—to work harder to pump more blood to the muscles, whatever your age.
It strengthens the brain. Studies have found that working out can lessen the severity of memory problems in older adults, and even decrease the risk of diseases like Alzheimer's. It can also have a positive benefit on the brain function of younger people. Research out of New Zealand shows that exercise improves executive function -- the general brain processes that include planning, memory, reasoning, problem-solving and more.
Emerging research suggests that it doesn’t take much movement to get the benefits. “We’ve been interested in the question of, How low can you go?” says Martin Gibala, an exercise physiologist at McMaster University in Ontario. He wanted to test how effective a 10-minute workout could be, compared to the typical 50-minute bout. The micro-workout he devised consists of three exhausting 20-second intervals of all-out, hard-as-you-can exercise, followed by brief recoveries. In a three-month study, he pitted the short workout against the standard one to see which was better. To his amazement, the workouts resulted in identical improvements in heart function and blood-sugar control, even though one workout was five times longer than the other. “If you’re willing and able to push hard, you can get away with surprisingly little exercise,” Gibala says. (For more on the 1-minute workout read this.)
First things first. You cannot—I repeat you CANNOT—lose body fat without eating a good, clean, nutritious diet. This might be the hardest part for most people to hear, but you’ll never succeed unless you change what goes into your mouth. And while it may seem like a daunting task, it is probably much more simple than you think. The key is to eat real food! Put simply:
It decreases PMS. Women often report feeling irritable and bloated before their periods, but exercise appears to minimize these conditions. In a survey of nearly 2,000 New Zealand women, researchers found that those who exercised, rested and wrote in a journal about their symptoms fared better than those who took specific vitamins or followed other DIY advice.
Additionally, make sure you stay active and keep moving to get your cardio up. When working out, focus on bigger muscle groups like the quads, glutes, back, and chest, rather than the smaller muscles like the triceps, or biceps. This will lead to a higher expenditure of energy, which will, in turn, lead to increased fat loss. Once you’ve achieved your desired approximate silhouette, the tips below will help refine your shape further.
3. It strengthens the lungs. Working hard increases lung capacity, and their efficiency in moving air in and out of the body. As a result, more oxygen is drawn into the body and more carbon dioxide and other waste gases are expelled. Regular exercise helps prevent the decline in oxygen intake that occurs naturally with age or as a result of inactivity.
Start the clock, and do as many squats as you can — while maintaining perfect form — for 30 seconds. Then rest for 10 seconds, and do as many single-leg deadlifts as you can (again, with perfect form) for 30 seconds. Stick to one leg with the deadlifts for the full 30 seconds. Then rest for 10 seconds again. Finish up with 30 seconds of glute bridges. Rest for a minute or two, and then start all over again.
If you struggle with a touch of fatigue, exercise might be just what the doctor ordered. According to a study from the University of Georgia, the blood flow benefits from exercise help carry oxygen and nutrients to muscles, which helps them produce more energy. They found that even low-to-moderate intensity exercise for just 20 minutes a day, three days a week for six weeks can help with that can't-keep-my-eyes-open feeling.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides. Bend your left knee, lifting your foot behind you. Squat down and raise your right arm out to the side to shoulder height, then reach your left hand down across your body, touching the floor outside your right toes (A). Stand up as you lift your left hand toward the ceiling, lower your right arm to your side, and raise your left thigh to hip level in front of you (B). Lower your left leg and repeat on the other side. That's one rep. Do 12 to 15 for a set. Do three sets, resting for 30 seconds between sets.
A 2002 study examined three groups of people. Group one, the control group, was told to track how often each person exercised throughout the week. The second group, the motivation group, was given the same instructions, but also read a motivational speech. Group three, the intention group, added on to the previous groups by asking people to create a plan that set a specific day, time and place to exercise.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides. Lunge forward with your left leg so your right knee is nearly touching the floor and your left thigh is parallel to the floor. Bending forward, try to touch the floor on either side of your left foot (A). Push off your left foot; using that momentum, shift your weight to your right foot and swing your left leg behind you. As you sink backward into a lunge, rotate your torso 45 degrees to the right (B). Return to standing. That's one rep. Do 12 to 15 and repeat on the other side. That's one set. Do three, resting for 30 seconds between sets.
If you're ready to move on from classic Bulgarian split squats, Swan's amped-up variation gets your upper body in on the action for a true total-body exercise. "This combination move works your legs, butt, chest, back, arms, and core," she says. "And it not only hits all the major muscle groups—it also lets you work on balance." Give it a shot and you'll see why.