"This is one of my go-tos for home workouts because of how it strengthens the postural muscles," says Bloom. In other words, it's excellent for targeting your posterior chain (or the backside of your body), and that's important for improving posture, preventing back pain, and making sure you have balanced strength—which is a major key to healthy overall movement, both in and out of a gym.
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.)
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.
Stretch your arms to the side and bring them back to your front, the right hand should overlap the left. This resembles an open scissors. You need to stretch them to the side again and bring them back to the front. This time your left arm should overlap your right. This is a complete rep and this exercise needs to be done in 3 sets of 10 reps every day.
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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.
HOW TO DO IT: Assume a bent-knee push-up position with your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees bent at 90-degrees, feet underneath hips. Step your left hand and your right foot forward and continue to crawl forward so that your opposite hand and foot are moving together. Repeat for 30 to 60 seconds. Start with smaller, slower steps and gradually increase the speed and distance traveled per step over time.
Another way lunges differ from traditional squats is that they train each leg individually. This is known as unilateral training. Rather than solely improving your strength, unilateral exercises increase your balance and coordination. This brings your core and back strength into play. Focusing on one leg at a time with lunges can even help with symmetry and muscular imbalances.
Endorphins are hormones in the brain associated with a happy, positive feeling. A low level of endorphins is associated with depression. During exercise, plasma levels of this substance increase. This may help to ease symptoms of depression. A recent National Health and Nutrition survey found that physically active people were half as likely to be depressed.
As people enter their forties and fifties, muscle mass starts to decline because of aging and, in some cases, decreased activity levels. Muscular atrophy can also occur because of health conditions, such as joint pain. As we age, it’s important to increase or maintain muscle mass through strength training, not only because it helps burn calories, but also because muscle mass is essential for strength and balance.
And you don’t need to sweat buckets to see the benefits of exercise, either. According to the physical activity guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise with two days of strength training per week yields the same health benefits as 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise with two days of strength training each week — as does a combination of moderate- and high-intensity exercise, plus two strength training workouts.
Ever hit the hay after a long run or weight session at the gym? For some, a moderate workout can be the equivalent of a sleeping pill, even for people with insomnia Effects of moderate aerobic exercise training on chronic primary insomnia. Passos GS, Poyares D, Santana MG, D’Aurea CV, Youngstedt SD, Tufik S, de Mello MT. Department of Psychobiology, Universidade Federal de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil. Sleep Medicine. 2011 December;12(10):1018-27.. Moving around five to six hours before bedtime raises the body’s core temperature. When the body temp drops back to normal a few hours later, it signals the body that it’s time to sleep Effects of exercise on sleep. Youngstedt SD. Department of Exercise Science, Norman J. Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, USA. Clinical Sports Medicine. 2005 April;24(2):355-65..
The skin also serves as a release point for heat. (See “Why Does My Face Turn Red When I Exercise?” for more on that.) When you exercise, your muscles generate a lot of heat, which you have to give up to the environment so your body temperature doesn’t get too high, Hackney says. The heat in the muscle transfers to the blood, which shuttles it to the skin; it can then escape into the atmosphere.