If you could magically go back in time to when you were young and fit and then photograph yourself every month up until present time, you would see a progression of how and where you gained weight (and fat). Maybe your legs started to show first and then your hips and then your waist and then your arms and finally your face showed the weight increase.
Though some people actually love physical activity and look forward to it, for many of us, exercising is a mighty drag. Exercise has also had an added PR problem in recent years: A growing body of evidence has shown that it’s not all that good for weight loss, which was probably many people’s reason for doing it in the first place. It may help with weight a little, especially for maintenance, but by and large, if you want to drop pounds, the most effective way is to eat less, not necessarily to exercise more. That said, research in recent years has also illustrated quite persuasively what exercise is good for—and it is actually good for a number of things, including some very profound things, like reducing dementia risk. Here’s what science tells us we should probably keep exercising for, even though we may not love every minute of it.
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.
Plyometrics are high-intensity bodyweight exercises that improve power, speed and physical performance. Think of burpees, jumping jacks, plank jacks and box jumps. These movements engage the whole body and raise your heart rate, sending your metabolism into overdrive. During a typical workout, your muscles are stretched and then contracted quickly to produce explosive force.
"This is one of my go-tos for home workouts because of how it strengthens the postural muscles," says Bloom. In other words, it's excellent for targeting your posterior chain (or the backside of your body), and that's important for improving posture, preventing back pain, and making sure you have balanced strength—which is a major key to healthy overall movement, both in and out of a gym.
HOW TO DO IT: Place your left foot on a stable low box or step (even a sturdy phone book will work). Hold your right arm forward. Quickly alternate which foot is on the box and which is on the ground from side to side. Stay on the balls of your feet throughout the movement. Perform the move at a slower, more controlled tempo at first, focusing on nice, clean exchanges of your hands and feet, and gradually increase your speed over time.
Harrison is also a hardcore burpee devotee. "It's a full-body exercise that will get your heart rate up, and it can be progressed and regressed in a variety of ways," she explains. (Psst—here are nine ways to do a burpee, no matter what your level is.) But her go-to burpee has a twist: "I also really love mountain climbers for some of the same reasons, so why not combine them?" The combo of the two will skyrocket your heart rate for a major cardio challenge.
Ah, arm fat. You know what it is. And let’s be honest. We all know we shouldn’t make a big deal of such things (all body types are beautiful, after all). But there is still a moment’s hesitation we all face when it comes to donning a cute spaghetti top or sleeveless dress. If there’s one word to describe arm fat, it would have to be stubborn. And no matter how much you control your diet or cut back on dessert, arm fat still seems to stay. Irritating, right? But before figuring out a way to reduce flabby arms muscles, it’s important to know what leads to the accumulation of arm fat.
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.