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.
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.
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.
Don’t be afraid of weights. After all, muscle burns more calories than fat. Do you want to know how to lose arm fat? Start with dumbbells, says Dede Lagree, who has worked with Angel Elsa Hosk and is the owner and head trainer at Lagree Fitness Studio. For Lagree’s arm-toning workout, choose a pair of dumbbells that you can safely lift at least 20 times. But pick a weight that challenges you: Your arms should feel that 20th rep! Don’t have dumbbells? Substitute soup cans or water bottles, Lagree says. Check out all the great body changes you get from lifting.
FIT TIP: To trim your tummy, do fewer crunches and more planks: Begin on all fours, hands under shoulders, knees under hips, then lower forearms to floor and extend legs straight behind you, balancing on toes. Keeping abs engaged and back flat, hold for 30 seconds; do 10 reps three or four times a week. Limit crunches to no more than three sets of 15 at a time. Anything beyond that isn't doing you much good, experts say.
Getting your workout in can also improve your sleep. In one study of 2,600 subjects, people who exercised at least 150 minutes a week reported a 65 percent improvement in sleep quality as well as better energy levels during the day, according to the National Sleep Foundation. And there's nothing more heavenly than a solid night of sleep (and nothing more rewarding after a tough workout during the day).
HOW TO DO IT: Start in a high plank. Push your hips back without arching your lower back until your knees flex to about 90 degrees. Pause for a beat, then explosively extend through your knees, ankles and hips while also pulling with your upper back as you lower into the bottom of a push-up. Keep your elbows tucked into your sides to protect your shoulders. Skip the push-up and just maintain a hold if you need it to be easier.
It boosts immunity. Regular exercise can reduce your risk of certain serious health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. It can also decrease your chances of developing -- and getting stuck with -- more common illnesses, such as flus and colds. (According to one recent study, colds lasted 43 percent longer for people who exercised once a week or less.)