If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you know that exercise should be an essential part of your routine. But the benefits of physical activity go far beyond just physical fitness. Increasingly, more and more research is showing that working out regularly can boost other aspects of your health as well, including cognitive function and emotional well-being.
A 2002 study examined three groups of people. Group one, the control group, was told to track how often each person exercised throughout the week. The second group, the motivation group, was given the same instructions, but also read a motivational speech. Group three, the intention group, added on to the previous groups by asking people to create a plan that set a specific day, time and place to exercise.
Jumping on the treadmill or cross trainer for 30 minutes can blow off tension by increasing levels of "soothing" brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. What's fascinating, though, is that exercise may actually work on a cellular level to reverse stress's toll on our aging process, according to a 2010 study from the University of California—San Francisco. The researchers found that stressed-out women who exercised vigorously for an average of 45 minutes over a three-day period had cells that showed fewer signs of aging compared to women who were stressed and inactive. Working out also helps keep us from ruminating "by altering blood flow to those areas in the brain involved in triggering us to relive these stressful thoughts again and again," says study coauthor Elissa Epel, an associate professor of psychiatry at UCSF.
Exercise improves self-confidence. One of the reasons many individuals do not attempt an exercise program is because they feel they are not very athletic or coordinated. Once an exercise program is begun, however, these same individuals discover that they are indeed able to work out successfully: gaining muscle tone and strength, improving their stamina, and improving how they feel emotionally. These revelations are very empowering. It is this increased sense of self confidence and improved sense of well-being that eventually becomes the sustaining force that helps people to continue their exercise program.
Maybe you exercise to tone your thighs, build your biceps, or flatten your belly. Or maybe you work out to ward off the big killers like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. But how about sweating to improve your mind? "Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your brain in terms of mood, memory, and learning," says Harvard Medical School psychiatrist John Ratey, author of the book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. "Even 10 minutes of activity changes your brain." If you need a little extra incentive to lace up those sneakers, here are five ways that exercise can boost your brainpower.
In a widely-cited study published in February 2013 in the American Journal of Health Promotion, researchers at Oregon State University looked at more than 6,000 American adults and found that even small amounts of physical activity — like pacing while talking on the phone or doing some jumping jacks during commercials while watching TV, as long as these short bursts of exercise add up to 30 minutes a day — can be just as beneficial as longer workout sessions at the gym.
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HOW TO DO IT: Assume a staggered squat position with your right leg forward (heel flat) and your left leg staggered behind on its toes, so that the front of your foot is aligned with your right heel. Push your hips back and down as far as you can while staying upright throughout the movement. Walk forwards taking short, choppy steps for 30 to 60 seconds.
Inspired by the idea that we can become harder, better, faster, and stronger using our body alone, we spoke with some of our #TeamAaptiv trainers. With their help, we discovered the most beneficial exercise moves you can do, no equipment required. Tried and true, they’re staples for a reason. If you haven’t already, you’ll want to include these in your routine—even when you get back in the gym.
And research published in November 2017 in the journal NeuroImage showed that aerobic exercise may be helpful in improving memory function and maintaining brain health as we age. The study, led by researchers at Australia's National Institute of Complementary Medicine at Western Sydney University, looked at brain scans of 737 people ranging in ages from 26 to 76. The group included a mix of healthy adults, people with Alzheimer's and other cognitive impairments, and people with a clinical diagnosis of mental illness, including depression and schizophrenia. The researchers found that exercises, like riding a stationary bike, running on a treadmill, or walking, slowed down the deterioration of brain size and slowed the effect of age on brain health.
Inflammation (in-fluh-mey-shun): The redness and warmth around a cut or scrape is short-term inflammation, produced by the immune system to aid healing. But another type called chronic inflammation, triggered by compounds from abdominal fat, gum disease and other factors, lingers in the body. Research suggests this type increases the risk for heart disease, diabetes, dementia and some forms of cancer.
Are you constantly misplacing your keys or struggling to recall names? Exercising regularly can help jog your memory. A 2014 study found that aerobic exercise, like running or swimming, boosts the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning, in women with a recognized risk factor for dementia. (9) Besides looking to brain food to boost your memory and mental skills, start breaking a sweat!
Bend your knees and push your butt back toward your heels, and then explode from that position back to a high plank and immediately bend your elbows and bring your chest toward the ground to do a push-up. As you bend your elbows and lower toward the ground, your elbows should be at about a 45-degree angle to your body (though you can make adjustments based on what feels best for your shoulders).
This one is a big one, since inflammation may be an underlying cause of a wide range of diseases and disorders in both body and brain. Exercise is known to reduce a number of inflammatory markers, like c-reactive protein (CRP) and internleukin-6 (IL-6), which are linked to a number of diseases. “The thing about exercise is that it has a multitude of effects on many different organs and systems,” says Suzi Hong, who studies exercise and immune system activation at the UC San Diego School of Medicine, “so often it is difficult to pinpoint which organ systems are influenced and which ones are not with which specific effects for what conditions… The anti-inflammatory effects of exercise are likely one of the underpinnings of its effects against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, certain cancers, neurodegenerative conditions and more.”
Exercise has long been correlated with a longer life, but it’s only recently started to become clear why this might be. Studies, like a new one in the journal Preventive Medicine which found that exercise is linked to longer caps at the ends of chromosomes, have helped flesh this out a bit more. These caps, called telomeres, naturally shorten as we age, with each cell division. People who live a long time have telomeres that are in better shape than those who don’t—but there’s a lot we can do to affect the rate at which they shorten over the years. The team behind the new study looked at data from CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, and found that for people who exercised regularly, their telomeres were 140 base pairs longer on average than sedentary people's. Which correlates to being years “younger” than their sedentary peers.
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.
This may be the most worthwhile reason for exercising there is. Studies have shown how people who exercise are at a significantly reduced risk of developing dementia like Alzheimer’s disease. And even for people who start exercising relatively late in life, brain volume can actually increase over time, as can scores on memory tests, compared to people who don’t exercise (their brains shrunk over time, which is normal part of aging).
Want to see those arms getting leaner in a hurry? Try adding some dips to your routine. While there are resistance machines that can help you tackle this exercise, it’s also easily accomplished using parallel bars or even a sturdy chair at home. With your arms shoulder-width apart by your waist, grip whatever surface you’re dipping on. Bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle, bringing your whole body down, and extend to straighten your arms again. Not only does this help build strong triceps, it can also help you define your pectoral muscles, making your whole upper body look and feel stronger.
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But the idea that banging out a workout when you don't have access to your usual equipment or space is one that trainers are quick to debunk. Sure, they know their way around a gym floor and a smart workout program, but they also know that when you're traveling, ultra busy, or just don't feel like dealing with the gym, a routine of challenging bodyweight exercises will get the job done.
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.”
What we eat can also play a part in the extent of the jiggle so eating a good, healthy balanced diet as well as keeping well hydrated can put you on the right track. Resistance exercises are the most effective way to blast that underarm fat as well as strengthen, shape and tone your muscles. You can always go down to the gym and work up a sweat but who has time for that? If you want a convenient and quick alternative then you can easily manage an effective routine in the comfort of your own home. All you need is a set of dumbbells and you can start toning up those bingo wings with these 10 easy workouts.
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.
Most people end a tough workout with a hot shower, but maybe we should be breaking out the colored pencils instead. A heart-pumping gym session can boost creativity for up to two hours afterwards Exercise enhances creativity independently of mood. Steinberg H, Sykes EA, Moss T, Lowery S, LeBoutillier N, Dewey A. The British Journal of Sports Medicine. 1997 September;31(3):240-245.. Supercharge post-workout inspiration by exercising outdoors and interacting with nature (see benefit #4) The cognitive benefits of interacting with nature. Berman, M.G., Jonides, J., Kaplan, S. Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI. Psychological Science, 2008 Dec;19(12):1207-12.. Next time you need a burst of creative thinking, hit the trails for a long walk or run to refresh the body and the brain at the same time.
This is a particularly cool one. Neuroscientists used to believe the brain was the only organ incapable of growing new cells—which partly makes sense, since we need our brains to be relatively stable over time, to keep our memories intact and to keep us us. But in recent years, it’s become clear that the brain, too, can grow new neurons, in a process called neurogenesis. And what seems to spur the growth of new neurons, perhaps above other activities, is aerobic exercise. (Other things, like meditation and antidepressant medication, have also been shown to trigger brain new cell growth.) The area of the brain that seems most capable of growing new cells is the hippocampus, the seat of learning and memory. It's also the area that’s known to “shrink” in depression, and particularly in dementia—so the fact that we may have some control over its health is exciting.
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“Being active as we age can play a role in cognitive function, and reduce the risk of disease such as dementia and Alzheimer's,” says Amanda Paluch, a postdoctoral researcher at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Research has explored several mechanisms, finding that exercise can increase synaptic plasticity and strength of nerve impulses in the brain, and have a positive effect on the hippocampus.”
2. Have a liquid meal immediately after the last exercise of your arm workout. When you are working out, little channels called glut-4 transporters temporarily migrate towards the surface of your muscle cells. They are responsible for letting nutrients into your arm’s compact muscles. This provides a rare chance to flood your arms with a controlled amount of nutrients that will accelerate the arm toning process. You have to have a liquid meal (solids take too long to digest) because the transporters disappear after 20 minutes.
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.
The one arm tricep dips in an effective exercise to lose arm fat that primarily focuses on the triceps – the back portion of the arms where most of the fat gets deposited. Being a powerful toning exercise it can be included in the 1200 calorie diet and exercise plan. The best thing about this exercise is that absolutely no equipments are required for doing it. All you will need is some clear space in your room.
Previous studies from her lab have also shown that the exercise is linked to changes in the secretion of stress hormones like epinephrine (a.k.a. adrenaline) and norepinephrine. “Our work has shown that each moderate, relatively short exercise bout exerts regulatory/suppression effects over inflammatory activities of immune cells," says Hong, "and in order to maximize this ‘benefit,’ repeated and regular exercise is recommended. In fact, we have also found that higher physical fitness is associated with better regulation of inflammatory activities of immune cells through stress hormones even among obese individuals.”