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.
Feeling down on yourself? Exercising can help you feel better about yourself — no matter what type of workout you do or how fit you are. One study found that “the simple act of exercise and not fitness itself can convince you that you look better.” (10) With so much emphasis on our outward appearances in society today, it’s comforting to know that one of the benefits of exercise helps people feel better about themselves and how they look naturally.
Bend your knees and push your butt back toward your heels, and then explode from that position back to a high plank and immediately bend your elbows and bring your chest toward the ground to do a push-up. As you bend your elbows and lower toward the ground, your elbows should be at about a 45-degree angle to your body (though you can make adjustments based on what feels best for your shoulders).
Challenge yourself with 2-2-2 push ups. If you feel comfortable with tricep push ups, you may want to try a variation on tricep pushups. The “2-2-2” push ups refer to 3 sets of 2 push ups using different hand placements: narrow, regular, and wide. The narrow push ups will work your tricep muscles and the wide push ups will work your chest muscles.
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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.