Cardiovascular exercise is known to help burn calories and eliminate body fat, so don’t skimp on your cardio! More importantly, make sure your cardio minutes are effective. 60 minutes on an elliptical reading a book is not going to be as effective as 20 minutes of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). That doesn’t mean you can’t be on the elliptical, just be sure to make your time worthwhile! When performing cardio you want to make sure you are working hard enough to breathe through your mouth and make you think about what you’re doing. If you can multi-task during the workout, it’s time to change it up! Shoot for 4-5 days a week of effective cardio training! And if walking is your cardio of choice, check out our plan 3 Walking Workouts to Boost Your Weight Loss.
Countless studies show that many types of exercise, from walking to cycling, make people feel better and can even relieve symptoms of depression. Exercise triggers the release of chemicals in the brain—serotonin, norepinephrine, endorphins, dopamine—that dull pain, lighten mood and relieve stress. “For years we focused almost exclusively on the physical benefits of exercise and really have ignored the psychological and emotional benefits of being regularly active,” says Cedric Bryant, chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise.
While a Bulgarian split squat isn't technically a zero-equipment move, they can still be done pretty much anytime, anywhere. "It activates many muscle groups and can be performed with any lifted surface, like a couch, bench, small table, or even an airport chair," says DiDomenico. The move is a major lower-body burner—you'll feel it in your quads, glutes, inner thighs, hamstrings, and even your calves.
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.
The benefits of exercise diminish within weeks after a person stops exercising. Heart strength, muscle strength, and the level of HDL cholesterol decrease, whereas blood pressure and body fat increase. Even former athletes who stop exercising do not retain measurable long-term benefits. However, people who were physically active in the past often can regain fitness faster.
The skin also serves as a release point for heat. (See “Why Does My Face Turn Red When I Exercise?” for more on that.) When you exercise, your muscles generate a lot of heat, which you have to give up to the environment so your body temperature doesn’t get too high, Hackney says. The heat in the muscle transfers to the blood, which shuttles it to the skin; it can then escape into the atmosphere.