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.
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.
Love 'em or hate 'em, you can't talk about ultra-effective no-equipment exercises without mentioning burpees (especially when there's a push-up incorporated). "The burpee with push-up is a full-body exercise that works your core, arms, quads, glutes, and hamstrings," explains Harbison. "[They also] rapidly increase your heart rate, especially if you add an explosive jump at the end of the movement." Strength, check. Cardio, check.
A workout once in a blue moon won’t do it, she says: you really have to exercise regularly, since hormone levels largely return to baseline after you exercise. That said, there’s an effect that accrues over time, which is what you want to harness by being active at least a few times a week. “What I’d caution readers is not to view our results as ‘one 20-minute moderate exercise will be a cure for all inflammatory conditions,’” says Hong. “These significant immune effects we observed occurred immediately with one bout of exercise, and likely will occur each time one exercises. So every time you exercise you’d see this effect, which will be cumulative over time.”
“Exercise of various types can help prevent osteoporosis, thinning of bones, fracture risk, and falls that are associated with fractures of the hip, spine, and wrist,” says Larry McCleary, MD, retired acting chief of neurosurgery at Denver Children’s Hospital in Colorado, and author of Feed Your Brain, Lose Your Belly. “Types of exercise that help include aerobic exercise, resistance training, and even exercises that increase balance and agility.” Tai chi may also be beneficial when it comes to improving balance and muscle strength.
FIT TIP: If you exercised on an empty or almost-empty stomach, you're probably feeling light-headed or even nauseated or headachy. Your immediate food fix: A high-carb nosh, like a banana or half a bagel, will refuel you and kick-start your recovery. And don't forget to drink plenty of water with your snack. Intense or long workouts can leave you dehydrated.
In addition to recommending exercise for general health and well-being, doctors may prescribe specific exercise plans in some situations. Before elective surgery, doctors may recommend people participate in exercise routines to enhance their recovery from surgery. Doctors also prescribe specific exercise programs to rehabilitate people after serious injuries or disorders such as heart attacks, strokes, major surgery, or injury (see Overview of Rehabilitation).
No matter what exercise routine you choose, use the time to meditate. You may wonder how marathon runners are able to put so many miles on their bodies. It’s because the pain from running that you avoid is something they’ve learned to harness to enter a transcendental state. If you’re aware of the benefits of meditation and exercise but don’t have time to do both, you can combine them, killing two birds with one healthy stone.
Fruits and vegetables are highly nutritious and keep your metabolism active. Therefore, more fruits and vegetables should be incorporated into your diet. Eat at least two types of fruits every day. Unhealthy items like colas, alcohol, and processed foods like chips and cookies should be eliminated. Mono and polyunsaturated fats from sources like olive oil, flaxseeds, walnuts, trout, and salmon should replace the unhealthy saturated fats. Reduce the intake of flour and refined sugars and consume more of whole grains.
The answer, then, is a short workout, right? Something that takes, say, 20 minutes tops. You’ll usually be able to squeeze that in between punching out at work and getting ready for your evening activities. But here’s the rub: It may only take you 20 minutes to train, but it takes 10-15 minutes (at least) to drive to the gym, five minutes or so to get in and out of the locker room, then 10-15 minutes to drive back home. You’re talking at least 45 minutes for the whole deal, but probably more like an hour-plus.
Get out of the medicine cabinet and reduce your risk of heart disease the natural way. A meta-review of a variety of studies and trials conducted by researchers in 2013 — encompassing 305 trials with more than 339,000 participants — found that no statistically detectable differences existed between those who exercised and those who were given medications in the prevention of coronary heart disease and prediabetes. (4)
Family relationships can benefit from exercise too. On days when the weather is nice the entire family may enjoy a walk or the couple a bike ride with the children in child seats behind the parents. If the family is involved in that very active phase of rearing young children, a parent's exercise break between work and child responsibilities will likely help them to be a calmer, more able parent.
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.”
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.
Even when you have the best intentions, sometimes, it can be really, really hard to drag yourself to the gym. Whether your bed or brunch plans are calling your name, sidestepping workout plans is all too easy when you’re feeling tired, stressed, and your willpower is running dangerously low. Finding the motivation to work out doesn’t have to be about getting stronger or leaner. Sometimes those are goals, and sometimes they aren't, and there are a 1,001 other amazing reasons to lace up your sneakers or unroll your yoga mat that have absolutely nothing to do with losing weight. Here are 11 of our favorites.
Sweating it out in the gym is a known de-stressor. Harvard Medical School has shown that aerobic exercise helps curb stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline (as long as you're not overdoing it), while also flooding your system with feel-good endorphins. It also ups the calming, good-mood brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine. So while exercise itself is actually putting low-level physical stress on the body, it can be pretty mentally relaxing.
Start the clock, and immediately do 10 reverse lunges in perfect form. When you’re done with the reverse lunges, go straight into jumping jacks until the clock reads 1:00 minute. Then move on to the next move. Do each move 10 times perfectly starting at the top of the minute, and finish out the minute with jumping jacks until it’s time for the next move. For the single-leg deadlift, do 10 on only one side (don't change your standing leg during any set of 10 reps).
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!
Pushups are a challenging bodyweight exercise that develops the triceps, shoulders and core. Aim to do as many pushups as you can in one session for a total of two to three sets with rest in between. You can modify a full pushup position by starting on your knees rather than your toes. Do pushups by lying face-down on the floor. Prop yourself up so that you are on your hands and knees, with your body forming a straight line from head to toe. Your hands should be underneath your shoulders. Keep your abdominals engaged as you lower toward the ground and push back up into start position.
Millions of women struggle to lose fat from their arms these days. Are you in a war with your flabby arms too? Fat arms are caused by sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy food habits, the body’s metabolic rate, medical issues, or even your genes. To address this problem you have to work extra hard on your triceps and biceps and lose overall weight from your body to get the desired result.
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.