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.
It brings on better sleep. If you're having sleep problems, skip the pills and hit the pool, track or spin studio. According to one study, people who exercised regularly for about 10 weeks reported sleeping better than they had previously. What exactly does “better” mean? In this case, it translated to dozing off faster and having a decreased need for sleep-promoting medication.
Flabby arms can ruin your confidence – and your looks. Some men and women are genetically predisposed to carry fat in this area. Luckily, there are ways to slim your arms and improve muscle tone without even leaving home. Just keep in mind that you can't spot reduce fat. You need to eat clean and work your whole body to get results. Certain exercises, especially those targeting the triceps, are particularly beneficial.
HOW TO DO IT: Stand with your feet together and hold both arms straight in front of you, palms together. Jump your feet apart, push your hips back, bend your knees and lower into a squat while pulling your arms apart and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Shift your weight over your right leg, and then your left leg, then right and left again before returning back to center and standing back up. Gradually increase your speed and range of motion throughout the set.
If you’re trying to lose weight, you may strive for sculpted, toned arms with no flab or jiggling. Reducing fat in your arms as a woman means doing arm strengthening exercises, trying sports or activities that help to build arm muscles, and maintaining a healthy diet. Most women carry extra weight in their hips and midsection. Toning your arms should not be too difficult with focused exercises, especially if you are trying to shed pounds off your total body weight. Keep in mind that it is not possible to lose weight in just 1 region of your body, but with diet and exercise, you should be able to lose weight all over and reduce the size of your arms.
Whether it’s a pick-up game of soccer, a group class at the gym, or just a run with a friend, exercise rarely happens in a bubble. And that’s good news for all of us. Studies show that most people perform better on aerobic tests when paired up with a workout buddy Aerobic exercise is promoted when individual performance affects the group: a test of the Kohler motivation gain effect. Irwin, B.C., Scorniaenchi, J., Kerr, N.L. et al. Kinesiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI. Annals of Behavioral Medicine 2012;44(2):151-9.. Pin it to inspiration or good old-fashioned competition, nobody wants to let the other person down. In fact, being part of a team is so powerful that it can actually raise athletes’ tolerances for pain Rowers’ high: behavioural synchrony is correlated with elevated pain thresholds. Cohen EE, Ejsmond-Frey R, Knight N, Dunbar RI. Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK. Biology Letters 2010 February 23;6(1):106-8.. Even fitness beginners can inspire each other to push harder during a sweat session, so find a workout buddy and get moving! Two-playered partner exergame for obesity prevention: using discrepancy in players’ abilities as a strategy to motivate physical activity. Feltz, D.L., Irwin, B., Kerr, N. Department of Kinesiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI. Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology 2012; 6(4):820-7.
Step forward with the left foot and lower into a lunge, keeping the front knee behind the toe. Push into the heel to step back and immediately step out to the left and into a squat. Press back to start and take the left leg back into a reverse lunge, again keeping the front knee behind the toe. Bring the left leg back to start and repeat for all reps before switching sides.
“Body fat is structurally important,” explains Stefanie Mendez, R.D., co-founder of Matriarch, a women's fitness and nutrition service. “It cushions our organs and insulates our body for temperature control and also is our body’s source of energy reserves. Beyond that, fat is needed for the production of hormones and reproduction functions.” And that fat can show up in your thighs, your belly, and, yes, your upper arms. Where it goes is partly due to genetics; if your mom has arm fat, science says you have a 62 percent chance of inheriting that trait.
When stress isn't just stress, exercise can work wonders, too. There's a host of research proving that people with anxiety and depression can find major help in working out. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, regular exercise has been found to help with various anxiety disorders, including panic disorder and OCD. Celebrities, including Lena Dunham, have talked about about how a regular exercise program has helped with her anxiety.
After ingestion, carbs are converted into glucose and burned for fuel or stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles for later use. According to the European Journal of Applied Physiology, each gram of glycogen stored in the muscles holds at least 3 grams of water. The more carbs you eat, the more water you'll hold, which can make your arms look fuller.
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.
Research has shown that to manage weight, you should exercise energetically for at least 30 minutes a day. You can also do an hour of intensive exercise every second day if this fits into your schedule more easily. Be consistent and be regular. Do those one-hour exercise sessions three to four times every week, not just one week a month, and you will achieve the result you desire - to lose weight and keep it off, says Dr Ingrid van Heerden, registered dietician.