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.
When she's working out sans equipment, Marraccini's favorite exercises are all things core-related. "A strong core never goes out of style," says Marraccini. This makes sense, considering that having a strong and stable core is essential for both everyday movements as well as exercising. While regular crunches really only target the upper portion of your abdominals, runner's crunches work your entire core as you sit all the way up, including your obliques, lower back, hip flexor muscles, and rectus abdominis (which is what you probably think of when you think "six-pack" muscles).
First things first. You cannot—I repeat you CANNOT—lose body fat without eating a good, clean, nutritious diet. This might be the hardest part for most people to hear, but you’ll never succeed unless you change what goes into your mouth. And while it may seem like a daunting task, it is probably much more simple than you think. The key is to eat real food! Put simply:
One doesn't automatically associate regular exercise with a reduction in the number of colds people get. But researchers from the University of Carolina found that people who exercised regularly were 23% less likely to get colds than those who exercised less. And if those who exercised got colds, the symptoms disappeared more quickly than in the study participants who did little exercise.
Begin standing with feet together. Step the right foot forward and bend the knees into a forward lunge, keeping the right knee in line with the second toe of the right foot; extend the arms forward and drive the fingertips toward the right foot. Push off the right foot and briefly balance on the left leg, keeping the right knee bent 90 degrees and bending both elbows; the palms should be facing one another. With control, step the right foot back into a reverse lunge position, bending both knees while simultaneously reaching both arms overhead. Reverse the movement and return to the starting position. Complete a total of eight to 10 reps on the right side before switching to the left.
Your body is the best tool you have for getting a great workout in with no equipment needed. Body weight training exercises (moves that force you to push or pull your own weight) can tone and slim your body while adding definition to your muscles. They also prepare you to take on physical activities you need to perform every day from lifting your kids to practicing good posture and carrying heavy bags.
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).
Heart Disease and Stroke. Daily physical activity can help prevent heart disease and stroke by strengthening your heart muscle, lowering your blood pressure, raising your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels (good cholesterol) and lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels (bad cholesterol), improving blood flow, and increasing your heart's working capacity.
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).
McAlpine's favorite on-the-go exercise is a classic for a reason: Push-ups are one of the most effective bodyweight exercises around. "Primarily, this move will target your chest, triceps, and your anterior deltoid muscles (the front of your shoulders)," says McAlpine. It also seriously works your core. Plus, there's something that just feels badass about working on push-ups and seeing yourself improve over time. "I personally love that feeling of strength that comes from this simple move," says McAlpine.