It strengthens the brain. Studies have found that working out can lessen the severity of memory problems in older adults, and even decrease the risk of diseases like Alzheimer's. It can also have a positive benefit on the brain function of younger people. Research out of New Zealand shows that exercise improves executive function -- the general brain processes that include planning, memory, reasoning, problem-solving and more.
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.
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.
Plyometrics are high-intensity bodyweight exercises that improve power, speed and physical performance. Think of burpees, jumping jacks, plank jacks and box jumps. These movements engage the whole body and raise your heart rate, sending your metabolism into overdrive. During a typical workout, your muscles are stretched and then contracted quickly to produce explosive force.
Exercise can have a number of emotional benefits. Stress can be caused by elevated levels of the hormones cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine. Exercise lowers these hormones, and increases serotonin, otherwise known as the happy hormone, which helps reduce stress. Working out can help keep depression and anxiety at bay. Plus, coping with mood disorders that are often associated with stress can be a little bit easier when you are in good physical shape.
Reduce your consumption of carbs, sugars, and animal fats. Consuming foods high in carbs and sugars will cause your body to secrete insulin, which is a main fat storage hormone in your body. When your insulin levels drop, this allows your body to burn fat. Lower insulin levels also help your kidneys shed excess sodium and water, which will help you reduce any water weight you are carrying.
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.
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.
HOW TO DO IT: Place your left foot on a stable low box or step (even a sturdy phone book will work). Hold your right arm forward. Quickly alternate which foot is on the box and which is on the ground from side to side. Stay on the balls of your feet throughout the movement. Perform the move at a slower, more controlled tempo at first, focusing on nice, clean exchanges of your hands and feet, and gradually increase your speed over time.
Research has shown that to manage weight, you should exercise energetically for at least 30 minutes a day. You can also do an hour of intensive exercise every second day if this fits into your schedule more easily. Be consistent and be regular. Do those one-hour exercise sessions three to four times every week, not just one week a month, and you will achieve the result you desire - to lose weight and keep it off, says Dr Ingrid van Heerden, registered dietician.