You probably have a vague sense that exercise is good for you—and you’ve probably heard that it’s “healthy for the heart.” But if you’re like most people, that’s not enough motivation to get you to break a sweat with any regularity. As I report in the TIME cover story, “The Exercise Cure,” only 20% of Americans get the recommended 150 minutes of strength and cardiovascular physical activity per week, more than half of all baby boomers report doing no exercise whatsoever, and 80.2 million Americans over age 6 are entirely inactive.
In case you’re curious, I’ll take a quick minute to share a little bit about who I am, my experience with struggling with my weight, what I did about it, and my purpose for helping folks all over the world do the same... I've found that what brings me the most happiness are the real people with real lives I've helped, as they email me about the success they've had using my techniques... read more
Exercise acts as a temporary diversion to daily stresses and it improves self-esteem. Increased core temperature during exercise may lead to reduced muscle tension and favourable alterations in brain neurotransmitters. Mood improvements may also occur due to the increased secretion of endogenous (internal) opiates, e.g. endorphins. Psychological changes may occur because of changes in norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin, all hormones which can affect mood and anxiety levels.

Fat is a freeloader. Body fat sits on your body and takes up space. Muscle, on the other hand, is a workhorse! Not only does it look better, but it actually works to burn calories and helps your metabolic rate. Losing fat is going to be much easier if you strength train and build muscle. Though we are going to concentrate on specific arm strength exercises in this article, try to get a full-body strength training session in twice per week. Not sure how to start? Use this free Beginner’s Guide to Strength Training to get you started!
A certain level of muscle strength is needed to function every day and do things such as walking and climbing stairs. Strengthening exercises increase this muscle strength by putting more strain on a muscle than it is normally accustomed to receiving. This increased load stimulates the growth of proteins inside each muscle cell that allow the muscle as a whole to contract.
Engage your abs and, keeping your body in a nice straight line, climb one hand at a time up to a plank position from your hands. Place your hands right below your shoulders, but outside your chest as you climb up. Try to wiggle your hips as little as possible as you climb and don’t let your butt go up in the air or your hips sag toward the ground as you climb up.
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.
Whether it’s a pick-up game of soccer, a group class at the gym, or just a run with a friend, exercise rarely happens in a bubble. And that’s good news for all of us. Studies show that most people perform better on aerobic tests when paired up with a workout buddy Aerobic exercise is promoted when individual performance affects the group: a test of the Kohler motivation gain effect. Irwin, B.C., Scorniaenchi, J., Kerr, N.L. et al. Kinesiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI. Annals of Behavioral Medicine 2012;44(2):151-9.. Pin it to inspiration or good old-fashioned competition, nobody wants to let the other person down. In fact, being part of a team is so powerful that it can actually raise athletes’ tolerances for pain Rowers’ high: behavioural synchrony is correlated with elevated pain thresholds. Cohen EE, Ejsmond-Frey R, Knight N, Dunbar RI. Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK. Biology Letters 2010 February 23;6(1):106-8.. Even fitness beginners can inspire each other to push harder during a sweat session, so find a workout buddy and get moving! Two-playered partner exergame for obesity prevention: using discrepancy in players’ abilities as a strategy to motivate physical activity. Feltz, D.L., Irwin, B., Kerr, N. Department of Kinesiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI. Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology 2012; 6(4):820-7.
Endorphins, amiright? The link between exercise and happiness has been well-studied, and the results are very positive (just like you’ll be after some gym time). One study from the University of Vermont found that just 20 minutes of exercise can boost your mood for 12 hours. Cardio and strength training can both give you a lift, and 30-60 minutes of exercise three to five days a week is optimal for mood benefits, according to the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
Lie on your back with the left leg extended and the right knee bent. Place the right foot on the floor and extend the right arm toward ceiling. Perform a crunch-like movement to lift the upper body, transitioning into a seated position, and continue to reach the right arm up. Place the left hand on the floor next to the left hip and push through the left hand and the right foot to lift the hips off the floor. Extend through the hips, reaching back with the right arm to perform a slight backbend. Slowly lower back down to the starting position. Repeat five to six reps on the right side before switching to the left.
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.
Jessica Matthews, M.S., E-RYT500 is faculty in kinesiology and integrative wellness at Point Loma Nazarene University and professor of yoga studies at MiraCosta College, where she helps to grow and mentor the next generation of health and wellness professionals. A dynamic speaker, respected educator, fitness industry veteran and featured wellness expert, Jessica is a trusted and recognized go-to media resource, regularly contributing to numerous publications and outlines on topics ranging from fitness and yoga, to health coaching and career development. Additionally, she serves as ACE’s senior advisor for health and fitness education, and is the lead editor and author of the ACE Group Fitness Instructor Handbook: The Professional’s Guide to Creating Memorable Movement Experiences. You can connect with her at www.jessica-matthews.com, @fitexpertjess (Twitter and Instagram) and www.facebook.com/fitexpertjess.
1. It strengthens the heart. The heart is a muscle. Like other muscles, its performance improves when it's regularly challenged by exercise. The heart responds to exercise by becoming stronger and more efficient. Strengthening the heart muscle can help ward off heart disease -- the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services -- even in early childhood.
You're adding lean muscle. If you did a strength-training routine, your muscles are now starting to rebuild themselves and repair the microscopic tears that come with lifting weights, says Paul Gordon, PhD, director of the Laboratory for Physical Activity at the University of Michigan School of Medicine in Ann Arbor. Preliminary research shows that women respond to and recover from resistance training faster than men.
Don’t be afraid of weights. After all, muscle burns more calories than fat. Do you want to know how to lose arm fat? Start with dumbbells, says Dede Lagree, who has worked with Angel Elsa Hosk and is the owner and head trainer at Lagree Fitness Studio. For Lagree’s arm-toning workout, choose a pair of dumbbells that you can safely lift at least 20 times. But pick a weight that challenges you: Your arms should feel that 20th rep! Don’t have dumbbells? Substitute soup cans or water bottles, Lagree says. Check out all the great body changes you get from lifting.
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.[10]
Endorphins are hormones in the brain associated with a happy, positive feeling. A low level of endorphins is associated with depression. During exercise, plasma levels of this substance increase. This may help to ease symptoms of depression. A recent National Health and Nutrition survey found that physically active people were half as likely to be depressed.

As little as 30 minutes of cardio three to five days a week will add six years to your life, according to research at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas. Do that plus a couple of days of resistance training and you'll not only live longer but also look younger, feel happier, have more energy, and stay slim. Ready for some inspiration for getting your move on? Keep reading for our timeline on the quick and long-lasting benefits of regular exercise.
The best part about exercising is how much you enjoy the downtime. If you think laying on your couch all day is enjoyable, it has nothing on that hour you spend as a couch potato after a rigorous workout. Jay-Z said it best, “in order to experience joy, you need pain.” The harder you push yourself while exercising, the better you’ll feel when you’re relaxing.

No matter what your age or shape, you should exercise daily. Not only does exercise tone your body so you can wear your favorite jeans, it strengthens your muscles, keeps your bones strong, and improves your skin. And there are more benefits of exercise -- increased relaxation, better sleep and mood, strong immune function, and more. Let's look at some of the incredible benefits of exercise then talk about how you can get started.
Now for the real solution: a 20-minute workout you can do at home. No commute to the health club, no traffic, no packing the gym bag, no waiting for the power rack to open up. Below is a great, quick workout you can do at home (or in a hotel room if you’re on the road) that focuses on the legs, chest and abs. It requires no equipment and, if done with purpose, is intense enough to give you a great pump and shock your system something fierce. Give it a try next time you’re trapped at home and have the training itch.

Jessica Matthews, M.S., E-RYT500 is faculty in kinesiology and integrative wellness at Point Loma Nazarene University and professor of yoga studies at MiraCosta College, where she helps to grow and mentor the next generation of health and wellness professionals. A dynamic speaker, respected educator, fitness industry veteran and featured wellness expert, Jessica is a trusted and recognized go-to media resource, regularly contributing to numerous publications and outlines on topics ranging from fitness and yoga, to health coaching and career development. Additionally, she serves as ACE’s senior advisor for health and fitness education, and is the lead editor and author of the ACE Group Fitness Instructor Handbook: The Professional’s Guide to Creating Memorable Movement Experiences. You can connect with her at www.jessica-matthews.com, @fitexpertjess (Twitter and Instagram) and www.facebook.com/fitexpertjess.
Not feeling up to heavy lifting? Try doing more reps at a lower weight instead and you’ll be kissing that arm fat goodbye in no time. Researchers at Canada’s McMaster University studied a group of 20-something men over a 12-week period, with half the study subjects lifting heavy weight and doing low reps, and another group lifting lighter weights for higher reps. The Journal of Applied Physiology study found that both groups increased their strength and muscle size by approximately the same amount, so if you’re relatively new to lifting or don’t feel up to hitting the heavy weights just yet, don’t worry; lighter lifts will still help you ditch the fat while gaining muscle tone.

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.
• Boosts energy and brainpower. College requires a fair amount of energy and lots of brainpower to keep up with classes and other activities. Exercise delivers oxygen and nutrients to the brain and various tissues. This means you can concentrate better and think clearly. Plus, because exercise helps your lungs and heart, you have more energy to do other things.

McAlpine's favorite on-the-go exercise is a classic for a reason: Push-ups are one of the most effective bodyweight exercises around. "Primarily, this move will target your chest, triceps, and your anterior deltoid muscles (the front of your shoulders)," says McAlpine. It also seriously works your core. Plus, there's something that just feels badass about working on push-ups and seeing yourself improve over time. "I personally love that feeling of strength that comes from this simple move," says McAlpine.
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