This is a particularly cool one. Neuroscientists used to believe the brain was the only organ incapable of growing new cells—which partly makes sense, since we need our brains to be relatively stable over time, to keep our memories intact and to keep us us. But in recent years, it’s become clear that the brain, too, can grow new neurons, in a process called neurogenesis. And what seems to spur the growth of new neurons, perhaps above other activities, is aerobic exercise. (Other things, like meditation and antidepressant medication, have also been shown to trigger brain new cell growth.) The area of the brain that seems most capable of growing new cells is the hippocampus, the seat of learning and memory. It's also the area that’s known to “shrink” in depression, and particularly in dementia—so the fact that we may have some control over its health is exciting.
“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.
Those buff lab rats might be smarter than we think. Various studies on mice and men have shown that cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells (aka neurogenesis) and improve overall brain performance Aerobic exercise is the critical variable in an enriched environment that increases hippocampal neurogenesis and water maze learning in male C57BL/6J mice. Mustroph ML, Chen S, Desai SC, Cay EB, DeYoung EK, Rhodes JS. Neuroscience Program, The Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA. Neuroscience. 2012 September 6;219:62-71. Aerobic exercise improves hippocampal function and increases BDNF in the serum of young adult males. Griffin EW, Mullally S, Foley C, Warmington SA, O’Mara SM, Kelly AM. Department of Physiology, School of Medicine, University of Dublin, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland. Physiology & Behavior. 2011 October 24;104(5):934-41.. Ready to apply for a Nobel Prize? Studies suggest that a tough workout increases levels of a brain-derived protein (known as BDNF) in the body, believed to help with decision making, higher thinking, and learning. Smarty (spandex) pants, indeed.
Flabby arms are something a lot of us have to tend to. If you find yourself buying a sweater or cardigan to go with your tank top or usually opt for the long-sleeved dress, then you’re not alone. Usually a result of genes, general excess fat or just ageing, it seems difficult to lose arm fat. The fat in our arms accumulates mainly around the triceps – the muscles on the back of your upper arm – and are prone to getting flabby if not exercised regularly.
In an ideal world, we’d all have plenty of time to head to the gym and work out whenever we please and check every other task off our to-do lists in the meantime. In reality? Sometimes all you have time for is a quick workout at home that you can do without equipment. The good news is that there actually are plenty of ways to squeeze a solid no-equipment workout into a short amount of time.
Think you can’t get a good workout while you’re sitting? Think again. In fact, the seated lat pulldown is one of the best exercises for toning those arms in a hurry. Using a pulldown machine, grip the bar and pull to chest level, and then raise again. This exercise makes it easy to build your biceps quickly and helps strengthen and tone your shoulders, which can make your arms look leaner, as well.
Lie on your back with the knees bent and feet flat on the floor, approximately hip-width distance apart. Lift the left leg up so that the leg is straight and the thighs are parallel. As you exhale, keep the core engaged and lift the hips off the floor. Hold for one to two seconds, and slowly lower down to starting position. Complete 10 to 12 reps on the right side before switching to the left.
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.
Begin with a free weight in your right hand. Rest your left hand and bent left leg on the exercise bench. Your left hand should be directly under your left shoulder so it supports your body. Bend your right hand while holding the free weight, making sure your back is straight and your torso is almost parallel to the floor. Form a 90-degree angle between your forearm and your upper arm. Keep your head up and your neck straight.
Choose low-carb, protein-rich foods, such as turkey, chicken, beef, eggs, cottage cheese and Greek yogurt. If you're a man, fill up on nuts, seeds and legumes. For best results, exercise at least three times a week. Mix strength training, high-intensity interval training and full-body circuits. Drink protein shakes before and after exercise to fuel muscle growth and increase fat burning.
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.