Jumping on the treadmill or cross trainer for 30 minutes can blow off tension by increasing levels of "soothing" brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. What's fascinating, though, is that exercise may actually work on a cellular level to reverse stress's toll on our aging process, according to a 2010 study from the University of California—San Francisco. The researchers found that stressed-out women who exercised vigorously for an average of 45 minutes over a three-day period had cells that showed fewer signs of aging compared to women who were stressed and inactive. Working out also helps keep us from ruminating "by altering blood flow to those areas in the brain involved in triggering us to relive these stressful thoughts again and again," says study coauthor Elissa Epel, an associate professor of psychiatry at UCSF.
That stubborn back-of-the-arm fat is some of the hardest to ditch, but making tricep presses part of your routine can help tone and tighten that area fast. While seated, extend a dumbbell over your head, holding it with both arms. Next, bend your elbows and bring the dumbbell behind you until it’s parallel with your shoulders, straighten your arms and lift the weight, and repeat.
And research published in November 2017 in the journal NeuroImage showed that aerobic exercise may be helpful in improving memory function and maintaining brain health as we age. The study, led by researchers at Australia's National Institute of Complementary Medicine at Western Sydney University, looked at brain scans of 737 people ranging in ages from 26 to 76. The group included a mix of healthy adults, people with Alzheimer's and other cognitive impairments, and people with a clinical diagnosis of mental illness, including depression and schizophrenia. The researchers found that exercises, like riding a stationary bike, running on a treadmill, or walking, slowed down the deterioration of brain size and slowed the effect of age on brain health.
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.
Lie on your back with the knees bent and feet flat on the floor, approximately hip-width distance apart. Lift the left leg up so that the leg is straight and the thighs are parallel. As you exhale, keep the core engaged and lift the hips off the floor. Hold for one to two seconds, and slowly lower down to starting position. Complete 10 to 12 reps on the right side before switching to the left.
Step forward with the left foot and lower into a lunge, keeping the front knee behind the toe. Push into the heel to step back and immediately step out to the left and into a squat. Press back to start and take the left leg back into a reverse lunge, again keeping the front knee behind the toe. Bring the left leg back to start and repeat for all reps before switching sides.
Begin in a forearm plank position. Press the right hand into the floor and then the left hand, rising to a high-plank position. Rotate your body to the right and extend the left arm toward the sky for a side-plank variation, allowing the left leg to scissor over the top of the right, with the inner edge of the left foot and the outer edge of the right foot touching the floor. Return to plank position. Release the right forearm back down to the floor and then the left forearm to return to the starting position. Repeat the sequence, this time starting with the left hand and coming to a left side-plank position. Continue the movement pattern without pausing, alternating sides. Complete a total of 10 to 12 reps (five to six reps per side).
Aerobic exercise revs up blood flow to the skin, delivering oxygen and nutrients that improve skin health and even help wounds heal faster. “That’s why when people have injuries, they should get moving as quickly as possible—not only to make sure the muscle doesn’t atrophy, but to make sure there’s good blood flow to the skin,” says Anthony Hackney, an exercise physiologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Train long enough, and you’ll add more blood vessels and tiny capillaries to the skin, too.
And perhaps one of the best new findings about exercise — especially if you, like many people, struggle to find the time to fit it into a busy day — is that all those benefits of physical activity can be had even if you only squeeze in a few minutes of exercise a day. While doctors used to think that we needed to engage in 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day, new research is finding that we can see benefits with shorter bursts of physical activity. “As little as 15 minutes a day of high-intensity activity that leaves you breathless, like swimming, can kick start your metabolic rate and reduce body fat and increase muscle mass,” says Dr. Berger.