The body uses both carbohydrates and fats as energy sources. But after consistent aerobic exercise training, the body gets better at burning fat, which requires a lot of oxygen to convert it into energy. “One of the benefits of exercise training is that our cardiovascular system gets stronger and better at delivering oxygen, so we are able to metabolize more fat as an energy source,” Hackney says. As a result, your fat cells—which produce the substances responsible for chronic low-grade inflammation—shrink, and so does inflammation.
“Inactivity is associated with increased risk for a number of cancers, including colon and breast cancer,” McCleary says. “Exercise has been linked with a decreased risk of developing cancer, death from cancer, and recurrence of certain cancers.” The suggested mechanisms at play include exercise’s beneficial effects on the immune and surveillance systems that detect and kill cancer cells, improved cardio-respiratory status, improved hormonal profiles, weight maintenance, and other beneficial metabolic effects, he says.
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.
Get out of the medicine cabinet and reduce your risk of heart disease the natural way. A meta-review of a variety of studies and trials conducted by researchers in 2013 — encompassing 305 trials with more than 339,000 participants — found that no statistically detectable differences existed between those who exercised and those who were given medications in the prevention of coronary heart disease and prediabetes. (4)
The answer, then, is a short workout, right? Something that takes, say, 20 minutes tops. You’ll usually be able to squeeze that in between punching out at work and getting ready for your evening activities. But here’s the rub: It may only take you 20 minutes to train, but it takes 10-15 minutes (at least) to drive to the gym, five minutes or so to get in and out of the locker room, then 10-15 minutes to drive back home. You’re talking at least 45 minutes for the whole deal, but probably more like an hour-plus.
The best part about exercising is how much you enjoy the downtime. If you think laying on your couch all day is enjoyable, it has nothing on that hour you spend as a couch potato after a rigorous workout. Jay-Z said it best, “in order to experience joy, you need pain.” The harder you push yourself while exercising, the better you’ll feel when you’re relaxing.
Aerobic exercise revs up blood flow to the skin, delivering oxygen and nutrients that improve skin health and even help wounds heal faster. “That’s why when people have injuries, they should get moving as quickly as possible—not only to make sure the muscle doesn’t atrophy, but to make sure there’s good blood flow to the skin,” says Anthony Hackney, an exercise physiologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Train long enough, and you’ll add more blood vessels and tiny capillaries to the skin, too.
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.
So, here’s how to lose arm fat: Stand holding the dumbbells at your side, palms facing forward. Your posture and form is important, so keep your back straight and chest up. Lift your arms straight up until they’re at a 90-degree angle to your trunk. Now curl the weights to your shoulder as you count to three, then straighten to a count of three. Lagree recommends doing three sets of 20 repetitions. Don’t miss this 15-minute strength training routine that works your whole body.
You’ll find planks among Ceasar Barajas‘, Jessica Muenster’s, and Amanda Murdock’s favorites exercises to do with no equipment. Murkdock (who recommends “planks all day long”— ouch) says that they work the entire body, can be done anywhere, and have a lot of variations. Muenster specifically favors plank jacks with palm-to-elbow movement because they also raise your heart rate.
Hop on the treadmill to look (and more importantly, feel) like a million bucks. On a very basic level, physical fitness can boost self-esteem and improve positive self-image. Regardless of weight, size, gender, or age, exercise can quickly elevate a person's perception of his or her attractiveness, that is, self-worth Longitudinal examination of the exercise and self-esteem model in middle-aged women. Elavsky S. Department of Kinesiology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology. 2010 December;32(6):862-80. A longitudinal assessment of the links between physical activity and self-esteem in early adolescent non-Hispanic females. Schmalz DL, Deane GD, Birch LL, Davison KK. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2007 December;41(6):559-565.. How’s that for feeling the (self) love?
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.