Stand with your legs wide apart, toes turned out and arms at your sides. Squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor and you're low enough to touch it with your fingertips (A). Immediately jump up as high as you can, keeping your legs wide and extending your arms straight overhead (B). That's one rep. Do three sets of 12 to 15 reps, resting for 30 seconds between sets.
Though some people actually love physical activity and look forward to it, for many of us, exercising is a mighty drag. Exercise has also had an added PR problem in recent years: A growing body of evidence has shown that it’s not all that good for weight loss, which was probably many people’s reason for doing it in the first place. It may help with weight a little, especially for maintenance, but by and large, if you want to drop pounds, the most effective way is to eat less, not necessarily to exercise more. That said, research in recent years has also illustrated quite persuasively what exercise is good for—and it is actually good for a number of things, including some very profound things, like reducing dementia risk. Here’s what science tells us we should probably keep exercising for, even though we may not love every minute of it.
Although the cardiovascular effects of exercise are partly related to inflammation, they still deserve their own category. Exercise is one of the best-illustrated things we can do for our hearts, and this includes markers like blood pressure and cholesterol, in addition the physical structure of the heart itself, and blood vessel function. Studies have suggested that 30 minutes per day is good enough to keep the heart in shape, while others have suggested we do more than this to get a real effect. Some have found that light activity is even enough to help the heart, but not all research confirms this, so it’s a little hard to tell how low levels of activity affect heart health over the long term. Additionally, too much exercise has also been shown to be stressful to the heart. So all this is to say that there’s probably a sweet spot somewhere in the middle for optimal cardiovascular health.
Then, step your left foot directly behind you (about 2 feet) and bend both knees to lower into a reverse lunge, creating two 90-degree angles with your legs. In this positioning, your shoulders should be directly above your hips and your chest should be upright (not leaning forward or back). Your right shin should be perpendicular to the floor and your right knee should be stacked above your right ankle. Your butt and core should be engaged.
Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder width, toes angled out slightly. Keep your core engaged as you hinge at the hips, lowering into a sumo squat position while simultaneously keeping the hands positioned in front of the chest. Release the hands to the floor and jump or step back to a high-plank position; be sure to maintain a neutral spine. Reverse the squat thrust, jumping or stepping feet back toward the hands and rising up to the starting position. Complete a total of eight to 10 reps.
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.
The bent-over row exercise develops the biceps and posterior deltoids, and also strengthens the core. Stand up tall with a weight in each hand, palms facing your body and arms by your sides. Bend over from the waist, hinging from the hips, until you are at a 45-degree angle. Keep your back straight, bend your elbows to 90 degrees and drive your elbows back as you squeeze your shoulder blades together. Contract your abdominals throughout the exercise to maintain stability in this position. Return to start and repeat 10 to 12 times or until fatigue sets in for two to three sets.
Strength training at the gym or taking a class at a fitness studio is great, but sometimes, you just want to get in your workout at home—or on vacation, or on a work trip, or wherever you may be. While most of us don't have round-the-clock access to a full gym stocked with weights and machines, the truth is that you really can work your entire body without them. Of course, equipment can help and is great for progressing and diversifying a workout program. But if you want to just get moving and do some strength and cardio work wherever you are, that's completely doable with a bodyweight workout.
Not feeling up to heavy lifting? Try doing more reps at a lower weight instead and you’ll be kissing that arm fat goodbye in no time. Researchers at Canada’s McMaster University studied a group of 20-something men over a 12-week period, with half the study subjects lifting heavy weight and doing low reps, and another group lifting lighter weights for higher reps. The Journal of Applied Physiology study found that both groups increased their strength and muscle size by approximately the same amount, so if you’re relatively new to lifting or don’t feel up to hitting the heavy weights just yet, don’t worry; lighter lifts will still help you ditch the fat while gaining muscle tone.