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.
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.
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What you can do is remove body fat from your entire body. Basically, you have to decrease your overall body fat composition if you want to lose weight from any specific place on your body. When you do that, you are going to eventually target the part of your body you want and you're going to lose body fat there. You can't just do 1000 push-ups every day and lose arm fat. Instead, you have to lose body fat in your entire body while building those arm muscles. You build up those muscles so that when your body fat percentage is low enough, they can show through.
Exercise has long been linked to better sleep, according to a review article published in December 2014 in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. Other research suggests exercise may improve sleep and mood in people with insomnia, too, according to a study published in October 2015 in the Journal of Sleep Research. Conversely, poor quality sleep has been linked to a wide array of health problems, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and depression. Given the fact that getting adequate sleep is so crucial for good health, and that exercise is a low-cost, easily accessible solution that offers lots of other health benefits with no risk or side effects, giving exercise a try to improve sleep is a no-brainer.
But, before jumping right in, take Candice’s advice. “Single leg and double leg [glute bridges] along with squats are super beneficial lower body exercises that activate glutes. Doing glute bridges prior to lunging and squatting helps ensure you get actual glute engagement when you squat, lunge, etc. so you are working the right muscles. Activation makes a huge difference—wakes ‘em up!”
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.
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.
3. Practice “glycogen depletion” and repletion. Once you get the hang of eating as described in rule #1, you have to start manipulating your carbohydrate intake. The key is to keep it simple: on days you don’t workout reduce carbohydrate intake, on days you do workout increase it. Doing this is like applying a blow torch to your arm fat. Just make sure you don’t go into ketosis a la Atkins—research has shown that total carbohydrate elimination is NOT necessary for maximum toning. Not to mention, the acidic breath you get from ketosis stinks!

Andra Picincu is a certified nutritionist and personal trainer with more than 10 years of experience. She holds a BA in Psychology and a BA in Marketing and International Business. Her mission is to help people live healthier lives by making smarter food choices and staying active. She owns ShapeYourEnergy, a popular health and fitness website. In 2014, she launched a local nutrition office and partnered up with local gyms to help their clients take the steps needed to better health. Current and former clients include The HOTH, Nutracelle, CLICK - The Coffee Lover's Protein Drink, InstaCuppa, GritWell, GoHarvey, and more. Andra is a regular contributor to these platforms where she either provides health-related content or coaching to those who are interested in achieving a balanced lifestyle.
I started the sleek arm challenge and super excited. I’ve injured my knee badly and it can’t take any weight at the moment sooo I figured it’s time to build some strength in my arms and shoulders. I noticed a lot of comments regarding arm fat, I have excess fat on my arms so I’ll post at the end of the month and tell you guys if there was any changes. I’m doing the exercises in the morning and evening (day 2 of the challenge and it really does take just a couple of minutes each time, 3 sets each time since I can’t do any other form of exercise at the moment). I definitely feel something in my shoulder blades and my shoulders/back feel more open as opposed to hunched (Yaaay :) )
Here's some quick physics fun: A body at rest tends to stay at rest. That's the fitness version of Newton's First Law, and it means that humans will find literally any excuse to not work out. I don't have time.... I felt a slight ache in my knee and don't want to make that worse... It's high tide. Somewhere. Probably. This happens to everyone—even the most dedicated, ruthless, disciplined gym-goers among us. (Like we said, it's science)
Sweating it out in the gym is a known de-stressor. Harvard Medical School has shown that aerobic exercise helps curb stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline (as long as you're not overdoing it), while also flooding your system with feel-good endorphins. It also ups the calming, good-mood brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine. So while exercise itself is actually putting low-level physical stress on the body, it can be pretty mentally relaxing.
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.

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.
Protein and fat loss go hand in hand. This nutrient supports muscle growth and raises your metabolism, making it easier to slim down. It also promotes satiety and reduces hunger, so you'll eat less without even realizing it. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition states that high-protein diets can positively impact appetite, cardiometabolic risk factors, body weight and other factors.

Inspired by the idea that we can become harder, better, faster, and stronger using our body alone, we spoke with some of our #TeamAaptiv trainers. With their help, we discovered the most beneficial exercise moves you can do, no equipment required. Tried and true, they’re staples for a reason. If you haven’t already, you’ll want to include these in your routine—even when you get back in the gym.
From Atkins to Paleo to eating gluten-free despite not being one of the rare few people afflicted with celiac disease, fad diets are everywhere. It drives me crazy because I believe these diets do more harm than good. Your body is made up of a variety of vitamins, nutrients, and minerals, and losing weight healthily isn’t possible when you fill your body with unnecessary synthetic plastics, sugars, and powders. There’s no easy button in life.

A study published in October 2017 in the American Journal of Psychiatry suggested that even just one hour of exercise of any intensity each week can help prevent depression. The study monitored levels of exercise and symptoms of depression and anxiety in 33,908 adults over 11 years and found that even small amounts of physical activity had a protective effect against depression, regardless of the person’s age or gender.

Squats are well known and pretty crucial to your workout routine. They’re a true multi-tasker. While performing them you practice balance, burn more fat compared to other exercises (due to muscle gain), activate your core and back, and promote circulation. Plus, it’s one of the oldest and most useful functional exercises, which means you’ll have no problem squatting down to reach the bottom of the fridge.
For those sticklers who object to this regimen as a violation of the no-equipment stipulation—what are you, trapped in a shipping container?—Okafor has a go-to airport circuit, too, no chair required: four rounds of 20 squats, 20 lunges (with each leg), and 30 bicycle crunches. Maybe you're thinking: the airport? But don't people give you weird looks? "Of course," Okafor says. "But they're usually out of shape." Spoken like a man who isn't one bit afraid to curl a chair with a towel.
Are you constantly misplacing your keys or struggling to recall names? Exercising regularly can help jog your memory. A 2014 study found that aerobic exercise, like running or swimming, boosts the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning, in women with a recognized risk factor for dementia. (9) Besides looking to brain food to boost your memory and mental skills, start breaking a sweat!
Scientists don’t know exactly why exercise changes the structure and function of the brain, but it’s an area of active research. So far, they’ve found that exercise improves blood flow to the brain, feeding the growth of new blood vessels and even new brain cells, thanks to the protein BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). BDNF triggers the growth of new neurons and helps repair and protect brain cells from degeneration. It may also help people focus, according to recent research.

Starting your day with a workout could be the key to getting rid of those jiggly upper arms at record speed. Researchers at Northumbria University found that, among a group of physically active male study subjects, those who hit the gym before eating breakfast burned nearly 20 percent more fat than those who fueled up before exercising. So, if you’re eager to shed that fat fast, a fasting workout can help you achieve those goals right on schedule. When you’re back home post-workout, nourish your muscles with the best breakfast foods for weight loss and you’ll keep your metabolism going strong all day.
HOW TO DO IT: Assume a seated position with your palms loaded, hands underneath your shoulders and knees bent at 90-degrees with your feet underneath your hips. Raise your hips so your butt hovers above the ground, and then move your right hand and left foot forward. Continue this opposite-hand, opposite-food pattern as you crawl for 30 to 60 seconds. You can add difficulty by traveling backwards or side-to-side.
As people enter their forties and fifties, muscle mass starts to decline because of aging and, in some cases, decreased activity levels. Muscular atrophy can also occur because of health conditions, such as joint pain. As we age, it’s important to increase or maintain muscle mass through strength training, not only because it helps burn calories, but also because muscle mass is essential for strength and balance.
This one is obvious, right? Everyone knows things with a high sugar content (yes, sodas, cakes and pastries, we’re looking at you) is bad for health. Sugar on its own is not bad at all but in order to lose flabby arms, one has to cut down food with excessive sugar content. In order to reducing arm fat, make changes to your daily diet to cut back on added sugar. For example, reduce the amount of sugar you add to your cup of coffee or tea, instead of buying canned or bottled juices, make your own fresh fruit juice, instead of sugar loaded breakfast cereals, try porridge of oats and add some fresh fruit for a dash of sweetness.  

Whether we’re fully conscious of it or not, we’re always looking for how to be happy. And exercise is one of the most obvious steps to take, as it’s not a coincidence that you feel better after a good workout: It’s science. A Penn State University study found that people who exercised, whether it was a mild, moderate or vigorous workout, had more pleasant feelings than those who didn’t. (1)


If it’s about the fat, then your goal should be to lose weight overall, rather than focus on specific areas. Your best bet is to start with your nutrition. Eating a healthy and balanced diet will maximize your chances for weight loss. If you’re using the 8fit meal plan, then getting the right amount of veggies and whole grains shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
First, let's talk about the nutrition aspect. The number one thing you have to do is get yourself in a calorie deficit. What that means is that you are burning more calories than you are consuming on a daily basis. You also want to consume a healthy diet and limit alcohol to stay on track to your body fat and weight loss goals. Avoid eating too much fast food and focus on lean proteins that will help you build lean muscle.
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.
Exercise stretches muscles and joints, which in turn can increase flexibility and help prevent injuries. Exercise may also improve balance by increasing strength of the tissues around joints and throughout the body, thus helping to prevent falls. Weight-bearing exercise, such as brisk walking and weight training, strengthens bones and helps prevent osteoporosis. Exercise often can improve function and reduce pain in people with osteoarthritis, although regimens must be developed specifically for each person, and exercises that put undue strain on joints, such as jumping and running, may need to be avoided.
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