1. It strengthens the heart. The heart is a muscle. Like other muscles, its performance improves when it's regularly challenged by exercise. The heart responds to exercise by becoming stronger and more efficient. Strengthening the heart muscle can help ward off heart disease -- the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services -- even in early childhood.
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.
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.
HOW TO DO IT: Start in a high plank with your hands underneath your shoulders. Jump your feet outside your hands and drop into a deep squat position, pushing your knees out and keeping your feels flat on the floor while prying your chest open with your hands. Return to the starting position and repeat. For an added challenge, try moving both forward and backward.
If it’s about the fat, then your goal should be to lose weight overall, rather than focus on specific areas. Your best bet is to start with your nutrition. Eating a healthy and balanced diet will maximize your chances for weight loss. If you’re using the 8fit meal plan, then getting the right amount of veggies and whole grains shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
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.
There is an abundance of evidence that shows regular exercise helps with body weight management, and can lower blood pressure, reduce bad cholesterol, increase good cholesterol, increase insulin sensitivity, and increase your likelihood of continuing to exercise — all indicators of better heart health. And given that two of the greatest risk factors for strokes are high blood pressure and heart disease, it should come as no surprise that regular exercise helps reduce stroke risk, too.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides. Lunge forward with your left leg so your right knee is nearly touching the floor and your left thigh is parallel to the floor. Bending forward, try to touch the floor on either side of your left foot (A). Push off your left foot; using that momentum, shift your weight to your right foot and swing your left leg behind you. As you sink backward into a lunge, rotate your torso 45 degrees to the right (B). Return to standing. That's one rep. Do 12 to 15 and repeat on the other side. That's one set. Do three, resting for 30 seconds between sets.
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.