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.
These beneficial effects in turn decrease the risk of heart attack, stroke, and coronary artery disease. In addition, colon cancer and some forms of diabetes are less likely to occur in people who exercise regularly. In short, regular exercise is one of the best things that people can do to help prevent illness, maintain healthy body weight, preserve health and longevity, and enhance quality of life.
Although the cardiovascular effects of exercise are partly related to inflammation, they still deserve their own category. Exercise is one of the best-illustrated things we can do for our hearts, and this includes markers like blood pressure and cholesterol, in addition the physical structure of the heart itself, and blood vessel function. Studies have suggested that 30 minutes per day is good enough to keep the heart in shape, while others have suggested we do more than this to get a real effect. Some have found that light activity is even enough to help the heart, but not all research confirms this, so it’s a little hard to tell how low levels of activity affect heart health over the long term. Additionally, too much exercise has also been shown to be stressful to the heart. So all this is to say that there’s probably a sweet spot somewhere in the middle for optimal cardiovascular health.

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.
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.
In a high plank position—palms flat on the floor beneath your shoulders, arms straight. Ease down on to your left forearm. Then, ease down your right arm until you’re in a forearm plank. Now push up with your right hand and then your left to return to a high plank. Repeat, alternating which side you lower first with each rep.” Lagree recommends doing two sets of ten reps. Another workout worth trying: these 9 resistance band exercises that will work your entire body.
Well, good (bad?) news: People who have dedicated their professional lives to defying Newton's First Law (you know them as "personal trainers") don't often have the luxury of skipping a sweat session. Next time you find yourself in need of a workout but without any of the things you think you need to get one, we got them to share the best workouts and circuits and exercises you can do anyway—no gear required.
Stand whit your feet placed hip width apart and arms raised straight to the sides, raised at shoulder height and the fingers together. Begin by keeping your palms facing towards the floor and then slowly rotate your thumbs towards the back until the palms are facing the ceiling. Slowly rotate the thumb down and forward. Repeat it 30 times at a stretch for best results.
Visit your doctor. Certain medical issues may be contributing to the buildup of fat in your arms and the rest of your body, including a thyroid problem or diabetes. Your doctor can also test your hormone levels with a simple blood test to see if there is an imbalance. Low testosterone can contribute to weight gain in your arms, thighs, and lower abdomen.[10]
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.
Everyone's genetics are different. Your friend may hold more body fat in their glutes and thighs, while you may hold extra body fat in your arms or in your hips. We're all different. We're all unique little snowflakes and we hold our body fat in different areas. But, no matter who you are, if you get a low enough body fat composition, we guarantee you that you're going to lose body fat everywhere including your arms.
Commit to a 7-day meal plan. Create a 7-day meal plan that covers 3 main meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner), scheduled at the same time of day, and 2 small snacks (between breakfast and lunch, and lunch and dinner), scheduled at the same time of day. A set meal plan will ensure you eat at a consistent time every day and do not skip or miss a meal. Consuming about 1,400 calories a day, combined with exercise, can help you to achieve healthy weight loss.[11]
Hold that item with both your hands and lift it over your head. Your arms should be straight, as this is your starting position. Now lower the weight, by taking it behind your back. You need to reach it as low as you can. Make sure that you don’t hurt yourself. Bring up the weight above your head, again. The slower you move your arms, the more toned your arms will get. It is important to keep your upper arms close to your head and ears. Also try to practice this exercise in front of the mirror if you can, it will help you improve the style. You need to do 3 sets of 20 reps, which means you will move the item 60 items above your head. After every set you can take a rest of one minute. Increasing the weight or time after every week will help you to tone your muscles, effectively.
FIT TIP: If you exercised on an empty or almost-empty stomach, you're probably feeling light-headed or even nauseated or headachy. Your immediate food fix: A high-carb nosh, like a banana or half a bagel, will refuel you and kick-start your recovery. And don't forget to drink plenty of water with your snack. Intense or long workouts can leave you dehydrated.
Rough day at the office? Take a walk or head to the gym for a quick workout. One of the most common mental benefits of exercise is stress relief. Working up a sweat can help manage physical and mental stress. Exercise also increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress. So go ahead and get sweaty — working out can reduce stress and boost the body’s ability to deal with existing mental tension. Win-win!
The biggest issue most people face in terms of the appearance of their arms isn’t a lack of muscle definition, it’s excess fat, meaning that what you’re eating is as crucial for fixing the problem as the amount you’re exercising. Instead of grabbing an electrolyte drink after your workout, try adding some grapefruit juice to your routine; researchers at Vanderbilt University found that obese study subjects who sipped a half-cup serving of grapefruit juice before meals significantly reduced their weight and BMI when compared to those who drank water instead. Fortunately, when you lose fat, it disappears all over your body, so a few sips of real grapefruit juice —the fresh, no sugar added stuff— can help you ditch those batwings for good.
For the greatest overall health benefits, experts recommend that you do 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic activity three or more times a week and some type of muscle strengthening activity and stretching at least twice a week. However, if you are unable to do this level of activity, you can gain substantial health benefits by accumulating 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity a day, at least five times a week.
HOW TO DO IT: Assume a bent-knee push-up position with your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees bent at 90-degrees, feet underneath hips. Step your left hand and your right foot forward and continue to crawl forward so that your opposite hand and foot are moving together. Repeat for 30 to 60 seconds. Start with smaller, slower steps and gradually increase the speed and distance traveled per step over time.
Before anyone’s crowned Cap’n Crunch, remember form is key. Lie on your back with the knees bent and feet flat on the floor. With hands behind the head, place the chin down slightly and peel the head and shoulders off the mat while engaging the core. Continue curling up until the upper back is off the mat. Hold briefly, then lower the torso back toward the mat slowly.
Stand whit your feet placed hip width apart and arms raised straight to the sides, raised at shoulder height and the fingers together. Begin by keeping your palms facing towards the floor and then slowly rotate your thumbs towards the back until the palms are facing the ceiling. Slowly rotate the thumb down and forward. Repeat it 30 times at a stretch for best results.
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.
If you’re trying to lose weight, you may strive for sculpted, toned arms with no flab or jiggling. Reducing fat in your arms as a woman means doing arm strengthening exercises, trying sports or activities that help to build arm muscles, and maintaining a healthy diet. Most women carry extra weight in their hips and midsection. Toning your arms should not be too difficult with focused exercises, especially if you are trying to shed pounds off your total body weight.[1] Keep in mind that it is not possible to lose weight in just 1 region of your body, but with diet and exercise, you should be able to lose weight all over and reduce the size of your arms.
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.
Dr. Robert Sallis, a family physician at Kaiser Permanente Fontana Medical Center in California, has prescribed exercise to his patients since the early 1990s in hopes of doling out less medication. “It really worked amazingly, particularly in my very sickest patients,” he says. “If I could get them to do it on a regular basis—even just walking, anything that got their heart rate up a bit—I would see dramatic improvements in their chronic disease, not to mention all of these other things like depression, anxiety, mood and energy levels.”
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).
Even when you have the best intentions, sometimes, it can be really, really hard to drag yourself to the gym. Whether your bed or brunch plans are calling your name, sidestepping workout plans is all too easy when you’re feeling tired, stressed, and your willpower is running dangerously low. Finding the motivation to work out doesn’t have to be about getting stronger or leaner. Sometimes those are goals, and sometimes they aren't, and there are a 1,001 other amazing reasons to lace up your sneakers or unroll your yoga mat that have absolutely nothing to do with losing weight. Here are 11 of our favorites.

It brings on better sleep. If you're having sleep problems, skip the pills and hit the pool, track or spin studio. According to one study, people who exercised regularly for about 10 weeks reported sleeping better than they had previously. What exactly does “better” mean? In this case, it translated to dozing off faster and having a decreased need for sleep-promoting medication.
HOW TO DO IT: Stand with your feet together and hold both arms straight in front of you, palms together. Jump your feet apart, push your hips back, bend your knees and lower into a squat while pulling your arms apart and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Shift your weight over your right leg, and then your left leg, then right and left again before returning back to center and standing back up. Gradually increase your speed and range of motion throughout the set.
Before anyone’s crowned Cap’n Crunch, remember form is key. Lie on your back with the knees bent and feet flat on the floor. With hands behind the head, place the chin down slightly and peel the head and shoulders off the mat while engaging the core. Continue curling up until the upper back is off the mat. Hold briefly, then lower the torso back toward the mat slowly.
Sesame oil contains a lignan known as sesamin, which is an antioxidant and also burns fat (4). Sesamin, in the active form, binds to a specific receptor known as peroxisome proliferator-activator receptor alpha (PPAR-alpha). These receptors are found in the heart cells, muscles, and the liver cells. The binding of active sesamin to PPAR-alpha activates the genes that help in burning fat.
Exercise has been shown to lengthen lifespan by as much as five years. A small new study suggests that moderate-intensity exercise may slow down the aging of cells. As humans get older and their cells divide over and over again, their telomeres—the protective caps on the end of chromosomes—get shorter. To see how exercise affects telomeres, researchers took a muscle biopsy and blood samples from 10 healthy people before and after a 45-minute ride on a stationary bicycle. They found that exercise increased levels of a molecule that protects telomeres, ultimately slowing how quickly they shorten over time. Exercise, then, appears to slow aging at the cellular level.
In fact, so many women hate their upper arms that they’re actually seeking surgery to get rid of it. Nearly 25,000 women received upper arm lifts—a cosmetic surgery procedure that reduces drooping skin and tightens the underlying tissue to give the arm more definition—in 2016. That number is up 4,959 percent since 2000, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
Flabby arms can ruin your confidence – and your looks. Some men and women are genetically predisposed to carry fat in this area. Luckily, there are ways to slim your arms and improve muscle tone without even leaving home. Just keep in mind that you can't spot reduce fat. You need to eat clean and work your whole body to get results. Certain exercises, especially those targeting the triceps, are particularly beneficial.
Model Amanda Wheeler is a certified strength and conditioning specialist (C.S.C.S.) and Precision Nutrition Level 1 Coach. She is the co-founder of Formation Strength, an online women’s training group that serves the LGBTQ community and allies by providing a space for individuals to uncover and enhance their highest potential through fitness, nutrition, and mindset.
Most gymgoers who are struggling with flabby arms either spend hours on the treadmill or work their biceps day in, day out. What you should focus on are the triceps because this muscle makes up two-thirds of your arm. Train it once or twice per week to lose arm fat and build upper-body strength. Your arms might get bigger, but they'll look leaner and more defined.
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.
Essentially, circuit weight training, or circuit bodyweight training, burns more calories than interval training, and that in turn burns WAY more calories than steady cardio. When you strength train, you burn calories. Then, your body needs to spend hours and hours afterwards rebuilding your muscles, which in turns burns even more calories (they call this the ‘afterburn effect).

If you cannot hold the starting position, modify it by dropping to your knees, keeping your arms and shoulders straight. Keep your head in alignment with your back and lower your chest towards the floor. Your elbows should be tucked into your sides as you hover over your fingertips. It’s completely fine if you can only lower your body a few inches. The more often you do tricep push ups, the easier they become.
So short of moving to a blue zone, exercising for just 10 minutes a day, or 75 minutes a week, can earn you an extra 1.8 years. The findings held true even for those individuals who were overweight or obese; adding exercise helped them live longer, while being obese and inactive decreased life span by up to 7.2 years. The benefits of adding more exercise increased and then plateaued at about 300 minutes of weekly exercise (or an hour five days a week) adding an extra 4.2 years of life.
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