Many people hit the gym or pound the pavement to improve cardiovascular health, build muscle, and of course, get a rockin’ bod, but working out has above-the-neck benefits, too. For the past decade or so, scientists have pondered how exercising can boost brain function. Regardless of age or fitness level (yup, this includes everyone from mall-walkers to marathoners), studies show that making time for exercise provides some serious mental benefits. Get inspired to exercise by reading up on these unexpected ways that working out can benefit mental health, relationships, and lead to a healthier and happier life overall.
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.
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).
1. It strengthens the heart. The heart is a muscle. Like other muscles, its performance improves when it's regularly challenged by exercise. The heart responds to exercise by becoming stronger and more efficient. Strengthening the heart muscle can help ward off heart disease -- the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services -- even in early childhood.
Exercise reduces risks for serious illness. Exercise reduces people's chances of developing and dying of illnesses such as heart disease. It does this by lowering illness risk factors such as triglyceride and overall cholesterol levels, while improving the level of HDL (the "good" cholesterol which is thought to reduce the risk of heart disease). Weight-bearing exercise and strength training activities help to maintain or increase bone mass, reducing a person's risk for osteoarthritis and associated bone fractures. Regular exercise also lowers resting blood pressure rates for hours after an exercise session is over. In addition, moderate exercise may significantly reduce the risk of developing type II diabetes. Arthritics who exercise often experience more strength and flexibility in their affected joints as well as a reduced pain levels. Furthermore, exercise may delay or prevent the development of arthritis in other joints. Regular walking of over a mile a day has been shown to reduce the risk of stroke significantly. Exercise even appears to reduce the risk of developing some cancers, especially cancers of the breast and colon.
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.
Begin in a plank position on the forearms. Press the hips up toward the ceiling while staying on the forearms (like an upside 'v') and gently press the heels to the floor. Hold briefly, then come back to your plank and push up onto the hands. Hold (back straight) for a few counts and then press back into a downward dog, stretching the heels to the floor and the chest gently through the arms. Come back into your plank, lower down to the elbows and repeat the entire series.
In case you’re curious, I’ll take a quick minute to share a little bit about who I am, my experience with struggling with my weight, what I did about it, and my purpose for helping folks all over the world do the same... I've found that what brings me the most happiness are the real people with real lives I've helped, as they email me about the success they've had using my techniques... read more
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).

That’s bad news, but emerging evidence shows that there are plenty of compelling reasons to start moving at any age and even if you’re ill or pregnant. Indeed, scientists are learning that exercise is, actually, medicine. “There is no pill that comes close to what exercise can do,” says Claude Bouchard, director of the human genomics laboratory at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana. “And if there was one, it would be extremely expensive.”
Family relationships can benefit from exercise too. On days when the weather is nice the entire family may enjoy a walk or the couple a bike ride with the children in child seats behind the parents. If the family is involved in that very active phase of rearing young children, a parent's exercise break between work and child responsibilities will likely help them to be a calmer, more able parent.

The body uses both carbohydrates and fats as energy sources. But after consistent aerobic exercise training, the body gets better at burning fat, which requires a lot of oxygen to convert it into energy. “One of the benefits of exercise training is that our cardiovascular system gets stronger and better at delivering oxygen, so we are able to metabolize more fat as an energy source,” Hackney says. As a result, your fat cells—which produce the substances responsible for chronic low-grade inflammation—shrink, and so does inflammation.
Another way lunges differ from traditional squats is that they train each leg individually. This is known as unilateral training. Rather than solely improving your strength, unilateral exercises increase your balance and coordination. This brings your core and back strength into play. Focusing on one leg at a time with lunges can even help with symmetry and muscular imbalances.
“Being active as we age can play a role in cognitive function, and reduce the risk of disease such as dementia and Alzheimer's,” says Amanda Paluch, a postdoctoral researcher at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Research has explored several mechanisms, finding that exercise can increase synaptic plasticity and strength of nerve impulses in the brain, and have a positive effect on the hippocampus.”
To perform reverse curls you will need a barbell with weight, enough to provide a challenging workout but not so much that you can’t complete a third set. Hold the bar at your waist in an overhand grip with your feet about shoulder-width apart; this is your starting position. Then you simply perform your basic curl exercise, flexing your muscles to lift the bar to shoulder level and return to starting position.
In a widely-cited study published in February 2013 in the American Journal of Health Promotion, researchers at Oregon State University looked at more than 6,000 American adults and found that even small amounts of physical activity — like pacing while talking on the phone or doing some jumping jacks during commercials while watching TV, as long as these short bursts of exercise add up to 30 minutes a day — can be just as beneficial as longer workout sessions at the gym.

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.
Being there for our loved ones and enjoying as many special moments together as we can — that’s what life really is all about. Keeping your body happy and healthy to help you live a longer, fuller life is one of exercise’s biggest benefits. Therefore, it’s great news that research published in 2012, which studied more than 650,000 people, found that 150 minutes of moderate exercise (or about half hour five days a week) increases your life span by 3.4 years. (14)
Exercise can have a number of emotional benefits. Stress can be caused by elevated levels of the hormones cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine. Exercise lowers these hormones, and increases serotonin, otherwise known as the happy hormone, which helps reduce stress. Working out can help keep depression and anxiety at bay. Plus, coping with mood disorders that are often associated with stress can be a little bit easier when you are in good physical shape.
Getting rid of arm fat quickly may seem daunting, but it is doable! While you can't get rid of just arm fat, you can eliminate fat overall which will make your arms smaller. Aim to do muscle-building exercises 3 times a week for a total of 90 minutes to tone your arms. Burn fat by adding at least 75-150 minutes of moderate to strenuous aerobic exercise to your week as well. Address any health problems that might be contributing to the buildup of arm fat, and make an effort to sleep more and eat a healthy diet.
Love 'em or hate 'em, you can't talk about ultra-effective no-equipment exercises without mentioning burpees (especially when there's a push-up incorporated). "The burpee with push-up is a full-body exercise that works your core, arms, quads, glutes, and hamstrings," explains Harbison. "[They also] rapidly increase your heart rate, especially if you add an explosive jump at the end of the movement." Strength, check. Cardio, check.

It strengthens the brain. Studies have found that working out can lessen the severity of memory problems in older adults, and even decrease the risk of diseases like Alzheimer's. It can also have a positive benefit on the brain function of younger people. Research out of New Zealand shows that exercise improves executive function -- the general brain processes that include planning, memory, reasoning, problem-solving and more.
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.
At least 35% of all cancer deaths may be related to overweight and lack of activity, the Seattle Cancer Research Centre has found. Exercise is believed to speed the passage of food through the colon, thereby reducing the amount of time that any toxins are in contact with the body. Overweight people also tend to have more insulin, which promotes the growth of tumours. For women, exercise reduces the level of oestrogen, a hormone linked to breast cancer.
Take a towel—technically not gear!—and run it underneath the seat of a chair—also technically not gear!—and, with the back of the chair facing away from you, do a set of biceps curls. This works only with standard, four-legged chairs in the 10-to-15 pound range, although if you can figure out how to manage it with your caster-mounted office chair, more power to you.)
Exercise reduces risks for serious illness. Exercise reduces people's chances of developing and dying of illnesses such as heart disease. It does this by lowering illness risk factors such as triglyceride and overall cholesterol levels, while improving the level of HDL (the "good" cholesterol which is thought to reduce the risk of heart disease). Weight-bearing exercise and strength training activities help to maintain or increase bone mass, reducing a person's risk for osteoarthritis and associated bone fractures. Regular exercise also lowers resting blood pressure rates for hours after an exercise session is over. In addition, moderate exercise may significantly reduce the risk of developing type II diabetes. Arthritics who exercise often experience more strength and flexibility in their affected joints as well as a reduced pain levels. Furthermore, exercise may delay or prevent the development of arthritis in other joints. Regular walking of over a mile a day has been shown to reduce the risk of stroke significantly. Exercise even appears to reduce the risk of developing some cancers, especially cancers of the breast and colon.
To do the Scapular Wall Hold Reps, stand with your back relaxing against the wall and your feet about six inches away. Bend your arms and drive your elbows back into the wall. With your body in a nice straight line, drive off the wall with your elbows, pressing your chest out and pinching your shoulder blades down and back. Brace your core and squeeze your glutes so your body moves as one unit.
We get it: You're busy! Career, family, friends, travel, that book club pick you still haven't checked out of the library (much less finished). With all that's going on, it can be tough to make time to hit the gym. Thankfully, you don’t need to go to the gym to achieve fabulously toned arms. Below are some of our favorite arm exercises for women that will help you tone your arm muscles and lose arm fat without weights — on your time. Say goodbye to flabby arms!
But the idea that banging out a workout when you don't have access to your usual equipment or space is one that trainers are quick to debunk. Sure, they know their way around a gym floor and a smart workout program, but they also know that when you're traveling, ultra busy, or just don't feel like dealing with the gym, a routine of challenging bodyweight exercises will get the job done.
HOW TO DO IT: Step to your left and lower your body into a lateral lunge, placing both hands on the floor. Without moving your feet, lift your hands and hips and shift your weight over your right foot, so you end up in a right-side lunge. Alternate back and forth for 30 to 60 seconds. To really kick up the burn, turn this movement into a monkey shuffle by simultaneously loading your hands, lifting your hips and shuffling your feet side-to-side between right and left lunge positions.
Lovitt likes to combine two lower-body classics—a curtsy lunge and reverse lunge—into one creative exercise to mix things up. "It’s a fun, effective compound movement." Compound movements are exercises that engage more than one major muscle group, so you get more work done in less time—this one primarily works your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and inner thighs (and helps keep things fresh if you're bored of working your lower body with regular bodyweight squats or lunges). This specific combination goes like this: curtsy lunge, reverse lunge, hop (bonus!), reverse lunge, repeat.
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