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).
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.
Many people hit the gym or pound the pavement to improve cardiovascular health, build muscle, and of course, get a rockin’ bod, but working out has above-the-neck benefits, too. For the past decade or so, scientists have pondered how exercising can boost brain function. Regardless of age or fitness level (yup, this includes everyone from mall-walkers to marathoners), studies show that making time for exercise provides some serious mental benefits. Get inspired to exercise by reading up on these unexpected ways that working out can benefit mental health, relationships, and lead to a healthier and happier life overall.
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 one is obvious, right? Everyone knows things with a high sugar content (yes, sodas, cakes and pastries, we’re looking at you) is bad for health. Sugar on its own is not bad at all but in order to lose flabby arms, one has to cut down food with excessive sugar content. In order to reducing arm fat, make changes to your daily diet to cut back on added sugar. For example, reduce the amount of sugar you add to your cup of coffee or tea, instead of buying canned or bottled juices, make your own fresh fruit juice, instead of sugar loaded breakfast cereals, try porridge of oats and add some fresh fruit for a dash of sweetness.
If you cannot hold the starting position, modify it by dropping to your knees, keeping your arms and shoulders straight. Keep your head in alignment with your back and lower your chest towards the floor. Your elbows should be tucked into your sides as you hover over your fingertips. It’s completely fine if you can only lower your body a few inches. The more often you do tricep push ups, the easier they become.
Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and your arms at your sides. Squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Keeping your arms straight, bring them forward and up until your upper arms are in line with your ears (A). Return to standing, then lift your right knee to hip height as you sweep your arms down across your body until the back of your left hand is outside your right knee (B). Return to standing and repeat on the other side. That's one rep. Do three sets of 12 to 15 reps, resting for 30 seconds between sets.
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!
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.”
For urban runners and power-walkers, one of the biggest obstacles is other people. It’s difficult to get in your meditative zone and enjoy your music when you constantly have to dodge people. To resolve this vexing issue, Runbell, a startup in Tokyo, has developed the runner’s version of the bicycle bell. With this lightweight brass bell warning people you’re approaching from behind, you’re free to maintain your transcendental state while continuing your workout. Head to their Kickstarter campaign to pledge your support.
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.
Try tennis or another racket sport. Racket sports like tennis or squash are great for building arm muscles and for a total body workout. Join a recreational tennis league in your area or take tennis lessons from the tennis pro at your gym. If a family member enjoys playing squash or racquetball, ask them to give you lessons and practice your skills. You should notice marked improvements in your arm strength and better arm muscle definition the more you play racket sports.
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.
All you’ll need is access to a bench or sturdy chair and you can get busy ridding your arms of that annoying fat. Triceps dips provide another convenient way that you can work on your arm fat whenever you have a few free minutes. Add triceps dips to your regular exercise regimen so that you can begin to fat all over your arms, not just your biceps.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides. Bend your left knee, lifting your foot behind you. Squat down and raise your right arm out to the side to shoulder height, then reach your left hand down across your body, touching the floor outside your right toes (A). Stand up as you lift your left hand toward the ceiling, lower your right arm to your side, and raise your left thigh to hip level in front of you (B). Lower your left leg and repeat on the other side. That's one rep. Do 12 to 15 for a set. Do three sets, resting for 30 seconds between sets.
Those buff lab rats might be smarter than we think. Various studies on mice and men have shown that cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells (aka neurogenesis) and improve overall brain performance Aerobic exercise is the critical variable in an enriched environment that increases hippocampal neurogenesis and water maze learning in male C57BL/6J mice. Mustroph ML, Chen S, Desai SC, Cay EB, DeYoung EK, Rhodes JS. Neuroscience Program, The Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA. Neuroscience. 2012 September 6;219:62-71. Aerobic exercise improves hippocampal function and increases BDNF in the serum of young adult males. Griffin EW, Mullally S, Foley C, Warmington SA, O’Mara SM, Kelly AM. Department of Physiology, School of Medicine, University of Dublin, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland. Physiology & Behavior. 2011 October 24;104(5):934-41.. Ready to apply for a Nobel Prize? Studies suggest that a tough workout increases levels of a brain-derived protein (known as BDNF) in the body, believed to help with decision making, higher thinking, and learning. Smarty (spandex) pants, indeed.