You probably have a vague sense that exercise is good for you—and you’ve probably heard that it’s “healthy for the heart.” But if you’re like most people, that’s not enough motivation to get you to break a sweat with any regularity. As I report in the TIME cover story, “The Exercise Cure,” only 20% of Americans get the recommended 150 minutes of strength and cardiovascular physical activity per week, more than half of all baby boomers report doing no exercise whatsoever, and 80.2 million Americans over age 6 are entirely inactive.
As little as 30 minutes of cardio three to five days a week will add six years to your life, according to research at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas. Do that plus a couple of days of resistance training and you'll not only live longer but also look younger, feel happier, have more energy, and stay slim. Ready for some inspiration for getting your move on? Keep reading for our timeline on the quick and long-lasting benefits of regular exercise.
Really work on burning that fat by going as hard as you possibly can. None of these workouts are going to be as effective as they can be if you're not going at your maximum intensity. Don't worry about the person near you. Don't compare yourself to other people. Just go as hard as you possibly can and have fun doing the thing, ladies and gentlemen. Keep on killing it.
Strength training, whether you’re lifting weights, doing bodyweight exercises or incorporating yoga moves, helps improve muscle strength and muscle mass, particularly important as we age. (8) It also keeps bones strong, thus serving as a great natural treatment for osteoporosis. Plus, increased muscle helps your body burn calories more efficiently long after your workout is over.
Start the clock, and immediately do 10 reverse lunges in perfect form. When you’re done with the reverse lunges, go straight into jumping jacks until the clock reads 1:00 minute. Then move on to the next move. Do each move 10 times perfectly starting at the top of the minute, and finish out the minute with jumping jacks until it’s time for the next move. For the single-leg deadlift, do 10 on only one side (don't change your standing leg during any set of 10 reps).
If you have stubborn arm fat that won't go away with diet and exercise, there is an FDA-approved medical treatment that can help. UltraShape is pain free and you can even get the procedure done on your lunch hour. Not everyone is a candidate for the procedure, but you might be. Find a board-certified plastic surgeon in your area to discuss your budget and your options.
HOW TO DO IT: Start with your weight on your right leg with your knee bent. Bent your left knee so your foot is slightly off the ground. Push off your right leg and jump to your left, landing softly and holding that position for a one-count, keeping your hips back and down throughout. Reverse the movement and repeat, gradually increasing your speed and range of motion.
Demoing the moves below are Cookie Janee, a background investigator and security forces specialist in the Air Force Reserve; Amanda Wheeler, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and co-founder of Formation Strength, an online women’s training group that serves the LGBTQ community and allies; and Crystal Williams, a group fitness instructor and trainer who teaches at residential and commercial gyms across New York City.
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.
"This is one of my go-tos for home workouts because of how it strengthens the postural muscles," says Bloom. In other words, it's excellent for targeting your posterior chain (or the backside of your body), and that's important for improving posture, preventing back pain, and making sure you have balanced strength—which is a major key to healthy overall movement, both in and out of a gym.

Studies have consistently shown that physical activity can help treat depression, and on the flipside, that low activity levels are a big risk factor for it. The antidepressant effect of exercise seems to be moderated in part through serotonin, the brain chemical that’s targeted with some antidepressants, and in part through bone-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). And this goes back to the generation of new cells mentioned earlier—exercise, though various mechanisms, seems to make the brain more plastic and more capable of growing new cells.
Sesame oil contains a lignan known as sesamin, which is an antioxidant and also burns fat (4). Sesamin, in the active form, binds to a specific receptor known as peroxisome proliferator-activator receptor alpha (PPAR-alpha). These receptors are found in the heart cells, muscles, and the liver cells. The binding of active sesamin to PPAR-alpha activates the genes that help in burning fat.
A new study from her lab shows that a 20-minute moderate workout has measurable effects on the immune system: Participants were asked to walk or jog on a treadmill, depending on their fitness level. They measured levels of TNF, an inflammatory marker, before and after the exercise, and found that there was a 5% reduction in the number of immune cells that produced the marker.
Lifestyle factors have a huge impact on certain conditions – and diabetes is one of them. Exercise can help to reduce your insulin requirements, lower your cholesterol levels and high blood pressure, and in the long term can reduce the development of heart disease and stroke. This is important because diabetics have a higher risk of developing heart and circulatory problems. Exercise can also promote weight loss, improve circulation and reduce stress levels (raising your glucose level).

Toning your arm muscles will certainly get you the definition you seek, but adding some extra protein to your diet will get you there even faster. Research published in The Journal of Nutrition reveals that packing on the protein increased muscle synthesis by as much as 25 percent, meaning that you can build stronger muscles faster, right in the privacy of your own home.
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.
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 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).
Get in plank position with your hands wider than shoulder-width apart (A). Lower your chest as close to the floor as you can. Holding that position, lift your right knee to the outside of your right elbow (B). Return to plank position, then push back up to start; repeat on the other side. That's one rep. Do three sets of 12 to 15 reps, resting for 30 seconds between sets.
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.
Chili has a chemical known as capsaicin that helps in burning fat and increases the metabolic rate (3). Capsaicin works by increasing the levels of norepinephrine, which is a neurotransmitter that helps in the burning of fat. Therefore, an increased level of norepinephrine leads to weight loss. Incorporate chili in your daily diet to see the results for yourself.
And perhaps one of the best new findings about exercise — especially if you, like many people, struggle to find the time to fit it into a busy day — is that all those benefits of physical activity can be had even if you only squeeze in a few minutes of exercise a day. While doctors used to think that we needed to engage in 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day, new research is finding that we can see benefits with shorter bursts of physical activity. “As little as 15 minutes a day of high-intensity activity that leaves you breathless, like swimming, can kick start your metabolic rate and reduce body fat and increase muscle mass,” says Dr. Berger.
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