Many people hit the gym or pound the pavement to improve cardiovascular health, build muscle, and of course, get a rockin’ bod, but working out has above-the-neck benefits, too. For the past decade or so, scientists have pondered how exercising can boost brain function. Regardless of age or fitness level (yup, this includes everyone from mall-walkers to marathoners), studies show that making time for exercise provides some serious mental benefits. Get inspired to exercise by reading up on these unexpected ways that working out can benefit mental health, relationships, and lead to a healthier and happier life overall.
Model Amanda Wheeler is a certified strength and conditioning specialist (C.S.C.S.) and Precision Nutrition Level 1 Coach. She is the co-founder of Formation Strength, an online women’s training group that serves the LGBTQ community and allies by providing a space for individuals to uncover and enhance their highest potential through fitness, nutrition, and mindset.
Plyometrics are high-intensity bodyweight exercises that improve power, speed and physical performance. Think of burpees, jumping jacks, plank jacks and box jumps. These movements engage the whole body and raise your heart rate, sending your metabolism into overdrive. During a typical workout, your muscles are stretched and then contracted quickly to produce explosive force.
Exercise improves physical health. Physically active individuals have a much better health outlook than their sedentary peers. Even modest regular physical activity has a positive influence on people's health and vitality. A minimum of 20 to 30 minutes of moderate activity a day most days of the week will benefit health and assist with weight loss. A formal workout is not necessary to have these benefits; a brisk walk will suffice (although a more vigorous workout will suffice that much more).
Love 'em or hate 'em, you can't talk about ultra-effective no-equipment exercises without mentioning burpees (especially when there's a push-up incorporated). "The burpee with push-up is a full-body exercise that works your core, arms, quads, glutes, and hamstrings," explains Harbison. "[They also] rapidly increase your heart rate, especially if you add an explosive jump at the end of the movement." Strength, check. Cardio, check.
A study published in October 2017 in the American Journal of Psychiatry suggested that even just one hour of exercise of any intensity each week can help prevent depression. The study monitored levels of exercise and symptoms of depression and anxiety in 33,908 adults over 11 years and found that even small amounts of physical activity had a protective effect against depression, regardless of the person’s age or gender.
Could the key to being more productive and happier at work lie in exercise? One study thinks so. It found that those employees who worked out before work or during their lunch hour reported feeling less stress and being happier and more productive than days when they skipped a workout. (11) Not only that, but they also performed better on exercise days. It’s the perfect excuse for a lunchtime stroll or walking meeting.
While building strength will get those arms more defined, cardio is still king when it comes to shedding the fat that’s causing your arms to wiggle. Researchers at Duke University studying 119 overweight, sedentary subjects found that those who stuck to a cardio program lost twice the weight of those who did strength training, despite the fact that the cardio group spent 47 fewer minutes exercising every week than their weight-training peers. So, if you’re ready to get that upper body toned and tight, make sure you’re making time for cardio, too.
Slogging through a few miles on the ‘mill can be tough, but it’s worth the effort! Exercise releases endorphins, which create feelings of happiness and euphoria. Studies have shown that exercise can even alleviate symptoms among the clinically depressed The benefits of exercise for the clinically depressed. Craft LL, Perna FM. Division of Psychiatry, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, USA. Primary Care Companionto the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2004;6(3):104-111.. For this reason, docs recommend that people suffering from depression or anxiety (or those who are just feeling blue) pencil in plenty of gym time. In some cases, exercise can be just as effective as antidepressant pills in treating depression. Don’t worry if you’re not exactly the gym rat type — getting a happy buzz from working out for just 30 minutes a few times a week can instantly boost overall mood.
HOW TO DO IT: Assume a staggered squat position with your right leg forward (heel flat) and your left leg staggered behind on its toes, so that the front of your foot is aligned with your right heel. Push your hips back and down as far as you can while staying upright throughout the movement. Walk forwards taking short, choppy steps for 30 to 60 seconds.
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.
You've cut your cancer risk. In a study of more than 14,800 women, those who had the highest levels of aerobic fitness were 55 percent less likely to die from breast cancer than those who were sedentary. Women considered moderately fit had about a 33 percent lower risk of developing the disease. Exercise may also help protect against endometrial, lung, and ovarian cancer, researchers say.
The one arm tricep dips in an effective exercise to lose arm fat that primarily focuses on the triceps – the back portion of the arms where most of the fat gets deposited. Being a powerful toning exercise it can be included in the 1200 calorie diet and exercise plan. The best thing about this exercise is that absolutely no equipments are required for doing it. All you will need is some clear space in your room.
Reduce your risk of heart diseases. Exercise strengthens your heart and improves your circulation. The increased blood flow raises the oxygen levels in your body. This helps lower your risk of heart diseases such as high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, and heart attack. Regular exercise can also lower your blood pressure and triglyceride levels.
One of the easiest ways to tone those arms fast is by incorporating some bicep curls into your routine. Simply raising and lowering a weight in a 180-degree range of motion, starting with your arm extended along your side, and bringing it up toward your shoulder, can yield serious definition in a hurry. Fortunately, this exercise doesn’t require a fancy gym membership or even special equipment; while it’s not hard to find a set of dumbbells for under $10, you can also use household products, like gallon jugs of water or soup cans to get the same result.
You'll also build muscle to fill out your arms and firm them up. “Generally, when people are complaining about underarm jiggle, they’re usually referring to the area that is governed by the tricep,” says Williams. “If the jiggle or looseness in that part of your arm is due to a lack of muscle, then strengthening and building muscle in your tricep will also create some change in the aesthetic of that area.” She recommends performing triceps push-ups, extensions, and dips to hone in on that area and add some muscular definition to your arms.
FIT TIP: If you exercised on an empty or almost-empty stomach, you're probably feeling light-headed or even nauseated or headachy. Your immediate food fix: A high-carb nosh, like a banana or half a bagel, will refuel you and kick-start your recovery. And don't forget to drink plenty of water with your snack. Intense or long workouts can leave you dehydrated.
Bend your knees and push your butt back toward your heels, and then explode from that position back to a high plank and immediately bend your elbows and bring your chest toward the ground to do a push-up. As you bend your elbows and lower toward the ground, your elbows should be at about a 45-degree angle to your body (though you can make adjustments based on what feels best for your shoulders).
“Exercise of various types can help prevent osteoporosis, thinning of bones, fracture risk, and falls that are associated with fractures of the hip, spine, and wrist,” says Larry McCleary, MD, retired acting chief of neurosurgery at Denver Children’s Hospital in Colorado, and author of Feed Your Brain, Lose Your Belly. “Types of exercise that help include aerobic exercise, resistance training, and even exercises that increase balance and agility.” Tai chi may also be beneficial when it comes to improving balance and muscle strength.
HOW TO DO IT: Assume a seated position with your palms loaded, hands underneath your shoulders and knees bent at 90-degrees with your feet underneath your hips. Raise your hips so your butt hovers above the ground, and then move your right hand and left foot forward. Continue this opposite-hand, opposite-food pattern as you crawl for 30 to 60 seconds. You can add difficulty by traveling backwards or side-to-side.
Exercise acts as a temporary diversion to daily stresses and it improves self-esteem. Increased core temperature during exercise may lead to reduced muscle tension and favourable alterations in brain neurotransmitters. Mood improvements may also occur due to the increased secretion of endogenous (internal) opiates, e.g. endorphins. Psychological changes may occur because of changes in norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin, all hormones which can affect mood and anxiety levels.
Exercise improves self-confidence. One of the reasons many individuals do not attempt an exercise program is because they feel they are not very athletic or coordinated. Once an exercise program is begun, however, these same individuals discover that they are indeed able to work out successfully: gaining muscle tone and strength, improving their stamina, and improving how they feel emotionally. These revelations are very empowering. It is this increased sense of self confidence and improved sense of well-being that eventually becomes the sustaining force that helps people to continue their exercise program.
This one is obvious, right? Everyone knows things with a high sugar content (yes, sodas, cakes and pastries, we’re looking at you) is bad for health. Sugar on its own is not bad at all but in order to lose flabby arms, one has to cut down food with excessive sugar content. In order to reducing arm fat, make changes to your daily diet to cut back on added sugar. For example, reduce the amount of sugar you add to your cup of coffee or tea, instead of buying canned or bottled juices, make your own fresh fruit juice, instead of sugar loaded breakfast cereals, try porridge of oats and add some fresh fruit for a dash of sweetness.
Commit to a 7-day meal plan. Create a 7-day meal plan that covers 3 main meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner), scheduled at the same time of day, and 2 small snacks (between breakfast and lunch, and lunch and dinner), scheduled at the same time of day. A set meal plan will ensure you eat at a consistent time every day and do not skip or miss a meal. Consuming about 1,400 calories a day, combined with exercise, can help you to achieve healthy weight loss.
HOW TO DO IT: Start in a high plank. Push your hips back without arching your lower back until your knees flex to about 90 degrees. Pause for a beat, then explosively extend through your knees, ankles and hips while also pulling with your upper back as you lower into the bottom of a push-up. Keep your elbows tucked into your sides to protect your shoulders. Skip the push-up and just maintain a hold if you need it to be easier.
Jessica Matthews, M.S., E-RYT500 is faculty in kinesiology and integrative wellness at Point Loma Nazarene University and professor of yoga studies at MiraCosta College, where she helps to grow and mentor the next generation of health and wellness professionals. A dynamic speaker, respected educator, fitness industry veteran and featured wellness expert, Jessica is a trusted and recognized go-to media resource, regularly contributing to numerous publications and outlines on topics ranging from fitness and yoga, to health coaching and career development. Additionally, she serves as ACE’s senior advisor for health and fitness education, and is the lead editor and author of the ACE Group Fitness Instructor Handbook: The Professional’s Guide to Creating Memorable Movement Experiences. You can connect with her at www.jessica-matthews.com, @fitexpertjess (Twitter and Instagram) and www.facebook.com/fitexpertjess.
Science is also showing that even short bursts of exercise can have a significant impact on your brain function in the short term. A study published in January 2018 in the journal Neuropsychologia found that when participants cycled for 10 minutes (either moderately or vigorously) on a stationary bike, their measured reaction times to a cognitively demanding task were significantly more accurate and faster than when they did the task after not doing any physical activity, meaning their attention was sharper.
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To do the Row Push Up, set up in a high plank position with your feet about hip-width apart and your hands outside your chest (beginners can do this from their knees). Then perform a push up, lowering your chest to the ground as your body moves as one unit. Do not let your butt go up in the air or your head jut forward. Also, make sure your arms create an arrow shape (–>) with your body instead of flaring way out.
Poorly toned triceps -- the muscles on the backs of the arms -- can cause arms to be loose and jiggly. Tone up this area with standing overhead triceps extensions. Hold a light weight in your left hand with your arm straight above your head, elbow by your ear. Keep your upper arm still as you bend the elbow and forearm to bring the weight behind your head. Return to start position and repeat 10 to 12 times or until fatigue sets in. Repeat on the right arm and complete three sets in total per arm.
Engage your abs and, keeping your body in a nice straight line, climb one hand at a time up to a plank position from your hands. Place your hands right below your shoulders, but outside your chest as you climb up. Try to wiggle your hips as little as possible as you climb and don’t let your butt go up in the air or your hips sag toward the ground as you climb up.
But the idea that banging out a workout when you don't have access to your usual equipment or space is one that trainers are quick to debunk. Sure, they know their way around a gym floor and a smart workout program, but they also know that when you're traveling, ultra busy, or just don't feel like dealing with the gym, a routine of challenging bodyweight exercises will get the job done.
Endorphins, amiright? The link between exercise and happiness has been well-studied, and the results are very positive (just like you’ll be after some gym time). One study from the University of Vermont found that just 20 minutes of exercise can boost your mood for 12 hours. Cardio and strength training can both give you a lift, and 30-60 minutes of exercise three to five days a week is optimal for mood benefits, according to the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
While many arms exercises are biceps-focused, this simple isolation exercise dials in on the triceps, or the backs of your arms. (If you do find your biceps working overtime, this is a great way to make sure you're building balanced upper-body strength.) "By hugging your elbows in toward your body and using your own bodyweight, this area is majorly targeted," says Speir. And it's really easy to do anywhere. "The great thing about this move is it takes up the smallest amount of space," she adds.
Not feeling up to heavy lifting? Try doing more reps at a lower weight instead and you’ll be kissing that arm fat goodbye in no time. Researchers at Canada’s McMaster University studied a group of 20-something men over a 12-week period, with half the study subjects lifting heavy weight and doing low reps, and another group lifting lighter weights for higher reps. The Journal of Applied Physiology study found that both groups increased their strength and muscle size by approximately the same amount, so if you’re relatively new to lifting or don’t feel up to hitting the heavy weights just yet, don’t worry; lighter lifts will still help you ditch the fat while gaining muscle tone.