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.
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.
But again, it's not so clear how much we need. The usual recommendations are 150 minutes/week of moderate activity, but as mentioned, that part is still up for debate. Some research suggests we need more than this to reap the benefits, while other suggests that every little bit helps. “Most research shows there is no lower threshold for health benefits,” says Paluch, “meaning that some activity is better than none and even small increases in activity will bring substantial benefits. Physical activity has the fantastic ability to act through multiple physiologic pathways in the body, making it a great bang for your buck.”
Cardiovascular exercise is known to help burn calories and eliminate body fat, so don’t skimp on your cardio! More importantly, make sure your cardio minutes are effective. 60 minutes on an elliptical reading a book is not going to be as effective as 20 minutes of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). That doesn’t mean you can’t be on the elliptical, just be sure to make your time worthwhile! When performing cardio you want to make sure you are working hard enough to breathe through your mouth and make you think about what you’re doing. If you can multi-task during the workout, it’s time to change it up! Shoot for 4-5 days a week of effective cardio training! And if walking is your cardio of choice, check out our plan 3 Walking Workouts to Boost Your Weight Loss.
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.
In addition to its other benefits, regular exercise helps older people remain independent by improving functional ability and by preventing falls and fractures (see also Exercise in the Elderly). It can strengthen the muscles of even the frailest older person living in a nursing or retirement home. It tends to increase appetite, reduce constipation, and promote quality sleep.
With that said, don’t relax too much, or it loses the effect. It’s okay to indulge every so often. Treat yourself to some junk food you’re craving, imbibe a drink here and there, and spend a day vegging out on your couch. Staying healthy doesn’t have to be torture. Just turn down when you can and dedicate some time to better the health of your body. You only get one.
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.
Take a towel—technically not gear!—and run it underneath the seat of a chair—also technically not gear!—and, with the back of the chair facing away from you, do a set of biceps curls. This works only with standard, four-legged chairs in the 10-to-15 pound range, although if you can figure out how to manage it with your caster-mounted office chair, more power to you.)
Start by placing a chair on a sturdy surface against a wall with the seat facing towards you. You can also do tricep dips on the edge of a staircase (such as the 2nd or 3rd step from the bottom) or a workout bench. Stand 1 to 2 feet (0.30 to 0.61 m) in front of the edge of the seat of the chair. Place your hands behind you, shoulder width apart with your fingers gripping the edge of the chair. Bend your knees so they are at a 90-degree angle and your knees are directly above your ankles.
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.
Exhale and use your triceps to lift the weight until your right arm is fully extended behind you. Supinate by turning your palm up as your arm moves back, so that your palm faces the ceiling. Move only your forearm and do not use your left hand or your legs. Pause once your right arm is fully extended, inhale, and then exhale as you bring the free weight back to the starting position.
First off, it is impossible to “spot reduce”, that is to lose fat from a specific area. When you do exercises that target a specific area, you’re actually targeting the muscles (not fat!) in that area. That means you’re doing step 2, which is increasing the shape and firmness of your arms by toning your arm muscles. That will get you some results, but fighting jiggly arms requires more than just spot exercises!
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.
Get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Sleep is a crucial component of fat loss and muscle building, which happens most effectively when your energy consumption is lowered. Aim to get between 7-9 hours of sleep each night by establishing a sleep routine to follow, including a 60-90 minute period to wind down before bed. During this time, shut off your phone and do something relaxing, like reading or meditation.
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.
Quick Q&A: Which is better at relieving anxiety — a warm bubble bath or a 20-minute jog? You might be surprised at the answer. The warm and fuzzy chemicals that are released during and after exercise can help people with anxiety disorders calm down. Hopping on the track or treadmill for some moderate-to-high intensity aerobic exercise (intervals, anyone?) can reduce anxiety sensitivity Effects of aerobic exercise on anxiety sensitivity. Broman-Fulks JJ, Berman ME, Rabian BA, Webster MJ. Department of Psychology, The University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS, USA. Behavior Research and Therapy. 2004 February;42(2):125-36. Exercise for the treatment of depression and anxiety. Carek PJ, Laibstain SE, Carek SM. Department of Family Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC, USA. The International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine. 2011;41(1):15-28.. And we thought intervals were just a good way to burn calories!
While many arms exercises are biceps-focused, this simple isolation exercise dials in on the triceps, or the backs of your arms. (If you do find your biceps working overtime, this is a great way to make sure you're building balanced upper-body strength.) "By hugging your elbows in toward your body and using your own bodyweight, this area is majorly targeted," says Speir. And it's really easy to do anywhere. "The great thing about this move is it takes up the smallest amount of space," she adds.