Quick Q&A: Which is better at relieving anxiety — a warm bubble bath or a 20-minute jog? You might be surprised at the answer. The warm and fuzzy chemicals that are released during and after exercise can help people with anxiety disorders calm down. Hopping on the track or treadmill for some moderate-to-high intensity aerobic exercise (intervals, anyone?) can reduce anxiety sensitivity Effects of aerobic exercise on anxiety sensitivity. Broman-Fulks JJ, Berman ME, Rabian BA, Webster MJ. Department of Psychology, The University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS, USA. Behavior Research and Therapy. 2004 February;42(2):125-36. Exercise for the treatment of depression and anxiety. Carek PJ, Laibstain SE, Carek SM. Department of Family Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC, USA. The International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine. 2011;41(1):15-28.. And we thought intervals were just a good way to burn calories!
Science is also showing that even short bursts of exercise can have a significant impact on your brain function in the short term. A study published in January 2018 in the journal Neuropsychologia found that when participants cycled for 10 minutes (either moderately or vigorously) on a stationary bike, their measured reaction times to a cognitively demanding task were significantly more accurate and faster than when they did the task after not doing any physical activity, meaning their attention was sharper.
Get ready to win big at Go Fish. Regular physical activity boosts memory and ability to learn new things. Getting sweaty increases production of cells in hippocampus responsible for memory and learning Exercise training increases size of hippocampus and improves memory. Erickson KI, Voss MW, Prakash RS, Basak C, Szabo A, Chaddock L, Kim JS, Heo S, Alves H, White SM, Wojcicki TR, Mailey E, Vieira VJ, Martin SA, Pence BD, Woods JA, McAuley E, Kramer AF. Department of Psychology, University of Pittsgurgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2011 February 15;108(7):3017-22.. For this reason, research has linked children’s brain development with level of physical fitness (take that, recess haters!). But exercise-based brainpower isn’t just for kids. Even if it’s not as fun as a game of Red Rover, working out can boost memory among grown-ups, too. A study showed that running sprints improved vocabulary retention among healthy adults High impact running improves learning. Winter B, Breitenstein C, Mooren FC, Voelker K, Fobker M, Lechtermann A, Krueger K, Fromme A, Korsukewitz C, Floel A, Knecht S. Department of Neurology, University of Muenster, Muenster, Germany. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory. 2007 May;87(4):597-609..
Now for the real solution: a 20-minute workout you can do at home. No commute to the health club, no traffic, no packing the gym bag, no waiting for the power rack to open up. Below is a great, quick workout you can do at home (or in a hotel room if you’re on the road) that focuses on the legs, chest and abs. It requires no equipment and, if done with purpose, is intense enough to give you a great pump and shock your system something fierce. Give it a try next time you’re trapped at home and have the training itch.
This may be the most worthwhile reason for exercising there is. Studies have shown how people who exercise are at a significantly reduced risk of developing dementia like Alzheimer’s disease. And even for people who start exercising relatively late in life, brain volume can actually increase over time, as can scores on memory tests, compared to people who don’t exercise (their brains shrunk over time, which is normal part of aging).
Push-ups aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but when you’re trying to get rid of that excess arm fat, they’re a pretty killer workout. Push-ups not only tone your biceps and triceps, they’re a great way to build muscle on your chest, making you feel stronger and look leaner in the process. If the thought of doing traditional plank push-ups has you feeling nervous, try doing the same motion at a 45-degree angle against a wall; you’ll get a similar workout, but without the intensity of a traditional push-up.
Start the clock, and immediately do 10 pushups in perfect form. When you’re done with the pushups, go straight into jumping jacks until the clock reads 1:00. Then move on to the next move, spider lunges (total, not per side). Do 10 of those with good form, and then jumping jacks until the minute is up. Then move on to the next move — 10 perfect reps of the jumping lunges, and then do jumping jacks until the end of the minute. And finish up with 10 perfect walkouts.
Maybe you exercise to tone your thighs, build your biceps, or flatten your belly. Or maybe you work out to ward off the big killers like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. But how about sweating to improve your mind? "Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your brain in terms of mood, memory, and learning," says Harvard Medical School psychiatrist John Ratey, author of the book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. "Even 10 minutes of activity changes your brain." If you need a little extra incentive to lace up those sneakers, here are five ways that exercise can boost your brainpower.
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.
Reduce your risk of heart diseases. Exercise strengthens your heart and improves your circulation. The increased blood flow raises the oxygen levels in your body. This helps lower your risk of heart diseases such as high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, and heart attack. Regular exercise can also lower your blood pressure and triglyceride levels.
Model Amanda Wheeler is a certified strength and conditioning specialist (C.S.C.S.) and Precision Nutrition Level 1 Coach. She is the co-founder of Formation Strength, an online women’s training group that serves the LGBTQ community and allies by providing a space for individuals to uncover and enhance their highest potential through fitness, nutrition, and mindset.
“Telomeres are a good index of cellular aging,” says study author Larry Tucker of Brigham Young University. “In short, because of lifestyle differences, some adults are older biologically than their chronological age, while others are younger. Given the same chronological age, adults who engage in high levels of physical activity have nine years’ less cell aging than sedentary individuals. That is substantial and meaningful.”
Your post-work meals should be high in protein and carbohydrates and you should always eat within 2 hours of your workout. A meal like low-fat Greek yogurt with a few tablespoons of granola and fruit or a peanut butter and banana sandwich made with 1 slice of whole grain bread can help your body to recover after a workout and improve your muscle strength.
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.
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.