Although the cardiovascular effects of exercise are partly related to inflammation, they still deserve their own category. Exercise is one of the best-illustrated things we can do for our hearts, and this includes markers like blood pressure and cholesterol, in addition the physical structure of the heart itself, and blood vessel function. Studies have suggested that 30 minutes per day is good enough to keep the heart in shape, while others have suggested we do more than this to get a real effect. Some have found that light activity is even enough to help the heart, but not all research confirms this, so it’s a little hard to tell how low levels of activity affect heart health over the long term. Additionally, too much exercise has also been shown to be stressful to the heart. So all this is to say that there’s probably a sweet spot somewhere in the middle for optimal cardiovascular health.
The body uses both carbohydrates and fats as energy sources. But after consistent aerobic exercise training, the body gets better at burning fat, which requires a lot of oxygen to convert it into energy. “One of the benefits of exercise training is that our cardiovascular system gets stronger and better at delivering oxygen, so we are able to metabolize more fat as an energy source,” Hackney says. As a result, your fat cells—which produce the substances responsible for chronic low-grade inflammation—shrink, and so does inflammation.
You'll also build muscle to fill out your arms and firm them up. “Generally, when people are complaining about underarm jiggle, they’re usually referring to the area that is governed by the tricep,” says Williams. “If the jiggle or looseness in that part of your arm is due to a lack of muscle, then strengthening and building muscle in your tricep will also create some change in the aesthetic of that area.” She recommends performing triceps push-ups, extensions, and dips to hone in on that area and add some muscular definition to your arms.
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.
"Losing weight, stopping smoking and doing more exercise are associated with better sexual health," says Dr Andrew McCullough, director of Male Sexual Health, Fertility and Microsurgery at New York University Medical Center in New York City. "We talk so much about treating, treating, treating. Here we're beginning to see an increasing body of evidence that we can modify the appearance of this by changing lifestyle."
Previous studies from her lab have also shown that the exercise is linked to changes in the secretion of stress hormones like epinephrine (a.k.a. adrenaline) and norepinephrine. “Our work has shown that each moderate, relatively short exercise bout exerts regulatory/suppression effects over inflammatory activities of immune cells," says Hong, "and in order to maximize this ‘benefit,’ repeated and regular exercise is recommended. In fact, we have also found that higher physical fitness is associated with better regulation of inflammatory activities of immune cells through stress hormones even among obese individuals.”
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.
Exercise increases energy and vitality feelings. Sedentary individuals often complain of being too tired to work out. Ironically, exercise improves people's capacity for work so that people who exercise on a regular basis actually have more energy and greater strength and endurance for daily activities than do their sedentary peers. The feeling of increased energy, and vitality is one of the first things people tend to notice a few weeks after beginning to working out on a regular basis.
Feeling uninspired in the cubicle? The solution might be just a short walk or jog away. Research shows that workers who take time for exercise on a regular basis are more productive and have more energy than their more sedentary peers Employee self-rated productivity and objective organizational production levels: effects of worksite health interventions involving reduced work hours and physical exercise. Von Thiele Schwarz, U, Hasson, H. Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 2011 Aug;53(8):838-44. A randomized controlled trial of the effect of aerobic exercise training on feelings of energy and fatigue in sedentary young adults with persistent fatigue. Puetz, T.W. Flowers, S.S., O’Connor, P.J. Department of Kinesiology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 2008;77(3):167-74. Epub 2008 Feb 14.. While busy schedules can make it tough to squeeze in a gym session in the middle of the day, some experts believe that midday is the ideal time for a workout due to the body’s circadian rhythms.
Want to see those arms getting leaner in a hurry? Try adding some dips to your routine. While there are resistance machines that can help you tackle this exercise, it’s also easily accomplished using parallel bars or even a sturdy chair at home. With your arms shoulder-width apart by your waist, grip whatever surface you’re dipping on. Bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle, bringing your whole body down, and extend to straighten your arms again. Not only does this help build strong triceps, it can also help you define your pectoral muscles, making your whole upper body look and feel stronger.
Lovitt likes to combine two lower-body classics—a curtsy lunge and reverse lunge—into one creative exercise to mix things up. "It’s a fun, effective compound movement." Compound movements are exercises that engage more than one major muscle group, so you get more work done in less time—this one primarily works your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and inner thighs (and helps keep things fresh if you're bored of working your lower body with regular bodyweight squats or lunges). This specific combination goes like this: curtsy lunge, reverse lunge, hop (bonus!), reverse lunge, repeat.
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.
That stubborn back-of-the-arm fat is some of the hardest to ditch, but making tricep presses part of your routine can help tone and tighten that area fast. While seated, extend a dumbbell over your head, holding it with both arms. Next, bend your elbows and bring the dumbbell behind you until it’s parallel with your shoulders, straighten your arms and lift the weight, and repeat.
And perhaps one of the best new findings about exercise — especially if you, like many people, struggle to find the time to fit it into a busy day — is that all those benefits of physical activity can be had even if you only squeeze in a few minutes of exercise a day. While doctors used to think that we needed to engage in 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day, new research is finding that we can see benefits with shorter bursts of physical activity. “As little as 15 minutes a day of high-intensity activity that leaves you breathless, like swimming, can kick start your metabolic rate and reduce body fat and increase muscle mass,” says Dr. Berger.
Additionally, make sure you stay active and keep moving to get your cardio up. When working out, focus on bigger muscle groups like the quads, glutes, back, and chest, rather than the smaller muscles like the triceps, or biceps. This will lead to a higher expenditure of energy, which will, in turn, lead to increased fat loss. Once you’ve achieved your desired approximate silhouette, the tips below will help refine your shape further.
The workout includes a dynamic warm-up to get your blood flowing and prep your body for the rest of the work ahead, and a cool-down to help you slow back down and wrap it all up. If you want to make the workout more challenging—maybe you've done it a handful of times and are ready to turn things up a notch—add weights to the lunge and squat movements. You can also, like Sims said, add another round of the main strength circuit.
In a high plank position—palms flat on the floor beneath your shoulders, arms straight. Ease down on to your left forearm. Then, ease down your right arm until you’re in a forearm plank. Now push up with your right hand and then your left to return to a high plank. Repeat, alternating which side you lower first with each rep.” Lagree recommends doing two sets of ten reps. Another workout worth trying: these 9 resistance band exercises that will work your entire body.