It zaps anxiety. Ever notice that you can start a workout feeling stressed and anxious, and end it feeling good? It isn't in your head. Or, actually, it is: According to a new study from Princeton University, exercise appears to change the chemistry of the brain by causing the release of GABA, a neurotransmitter that helps quiet brain activity and minimize anxiety. The study found that people who ran regularly had a low reaction to stressful situations, even if they hadn't run in more than 24 hours.
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.
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.
Instead, focus on living the healthy, well-fueled and physically active lifestyle that you know you need to lead anyway. By doing that, you'll see far greater results in the arm department, anyway, Mendez says. Through a combination of balanced eating (hit all three macros at every meal!) and performing a combination of high-intensity interval cardio and strength training, you'll naturally shed fat all over, including around your arms, explains Lauren Williams, C.P.T., a trainer at PROJECT Equinox.
Toning your arm muscles will certainly get you the definition you seek, but adding some extra protein to your diet will get you there even faster. Research published in The Journal of Nutrition reveals that packing on the protein increased muscle synthesis by as much as 25 percent, meaning that you can build stronger muscles faster, right in the privacy of your own home.
Research is finding that as we age, exercise may be able to help keep our brains healthy. Three studies presented at the 2015 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference showed that regular exercise may play an important role in protecting your brain from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, and may help improve brain function and symptoms such as depression or anxiety in those who have these conditions.
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.
“Body fat is structurally important,” explains Stefanie Mendez, R.D., co-founder of Matriarch, a women's fitness and nutrition service. “It cushions our organs and insulates our body for temperature control and also is our body’s source of energy reserves. Beyond that, fat is needed for the production of hormones and reproduction functions.” And that fat can show up in your thighs, your belly, and, yes, your upper arms. Where it goes is partly due to genetics; if your mom has arm fat, science says you have a 62 percent chance of inheriting that trait.
Exercise with a rowing machine. Using a rowing machine will help you burn calories and tone your arms. To use the machine, strap in your feet and reach forward to grab the handlebar. Keep your back straight and your knees bent. Push off with your legs and pull the handlebar toward your chest. Then, extend your arms and bend your knees again as the handlebar goes back to the starting position.
Really work on burning that fat by going as hard as you possibly can. None of these workouts are going to be as effective as they can be if you're not going at your maximum intensity. Don't worry about the person near you. Don't compare yourself to other people. Just go as hard as you possibly can and have fun doing the thing, ladies and gentlemen. Keep on killing it.
If you're ready to move on from classic Bulgarian split squats, Swan's amped-up variation gets your upper body in on the action for a true total-body exercise. "This combination move works your legs, butt, chest, back, arms, and core," she says. "And it not only hits all the major muscle groups—it also lets you work on balance." Give it a shot and you'll see why.