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.
Lovitt likes to combine two lower-body classics—a curtsy lunge and reverse lunge—into one creative exercise to mix things up. "It’s a fun, effective compound movement." Compound movements are exercises that engage more than one major muscle group, so you get more work done in less time—this one primarily works your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and inner thighs (and helps keep things fresh if you're bored of working your lower body with regular bodyweight squats or lunges). This specific combination goes like this: curtsy lunge, reverse lunge, hop (bonus!), reverse lunge, repeat.
HOW TO DO IT: Start with your left leg forward and your right leg back. Place your left foot onto one end of a towel and grab the other end in your right hand. Pull the towel as hard as you can without holding your breath. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, then switch sides and repeat. If you can’t maintain the hold continuously, break it up into shorter five- to 10-second bursts with brief one- or two-second rests in between.
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.
Then, step your left foot directly behind you (about 2 feet) and bend both knees to lower into a reverse lunge, creating two 90-degree angles with your legs. In this positioning, your shoulders should be directly above your hips and your chest should be upright (not leaning forward or back). Your right shin should be perpendicular to the floor and your right knee should be stacked above your right ankle. Your butt and core should be engaged.
When it comes to these pushups, make sure your left and right hands are shoulder-width apart to keep proper form. Keep your left elbow and right elbow in as well so you can activate not only your triceps but also your chest. This exercise is great because it helps you protect your rotator cuff, which is upon your shoulders. Shoot for 15 to 20 reps in this 30-second set. Don't go for high speed, go for perfect form.
Emerging research suggests that it doesn’t take much movement to get the benefits. “We’ve been interested in the question of, How low can you go?” says Martin Gibala, an exercise physiologist at McMaster University in Ontario. He wanted to test how effective a 10-minute workout could be, compared to the typical 50-minute bout. The micro-workout he devised consists of three exhausting 20-second intervals of all-out, hard-as-you-can exercise, followed by brief recoveries. In a three-month study, he pitted the short workout against the standard one to see which was better. To his amazement, the workouts resulted in identical improvements in heart function and blood-sugar control, even though one workout was five times longer than the other. “If you’re willing and able to push hard, you can get away with surprisingly little exercise,” Gibala says. (For more on the 1-minute workout read this.)
One of the easiest ways to tone those arms fast is by incorporating some bicep curls into your routine. Simply raising and lowering a weight in a 180-degree range of motion, starting with your arm extended along your side, and bringing it up toward your shoulder, can yield serious definition in a hurry. Fortunately, this exercise doesn’t require a fancy gym membership or even special equipment; while it’s not hard to find a set of dumbbells for under $10, you can also use household products, like gallon jugs of water or soup cans to get the same result.
Your post-work meals should be high in protein and carbohydrates and you should always eat within 2 hours of your workout. A meal like low-fat Greek yogurt with a few tablespoons of granola and fruit or a peanut butter and banana sandwich made with 1 slice of whole grain bread can help your body to recover after a workout and improve your muscle strength.