Emerging research suggests that it doesn’t take much movement to get the benefits. “We’ve been interested in the question of, How low can you go?” says Martin Gibala, an exercise physiologist at McMaster University in Ontario. He wanted to test how effective a 10-minute workout could be, compared to the typical 50-minute bout. The micro-workout he devised consists of three exhausting 20-second intervals of all-out, hard-as-you-can exercise, followed by brief recoveries. In a three-month study, he pitted the short workout against the standard one to see which was better. To his amazement, the workouts resulted in identical improvements in heart function and blood-sugar control, even though one workout was five times longer than the other. “If you’re willing and able to push hard, you can get away with surprisingly little exercise,” Gibala says. (For more on the 1-minute workout read this.)
The biggest issue most people face in terms of the appearance of their arms isn’t a lack of muscle definition, it’s excess fat, meaning that what you’re eating is as crucial for fixing the problem as the amount you’re exercising. Instead of grabbing an electrolyte drink after your workout, try adding some grapefruit juice to your routine; researchers at Vanderbilt University found that obese study subjects who sipped a half-cup serving of grapefruit juice before meals significantly reduced their weight and BMI when compared to those who drank water instead. Fortunately, when you lose fat, it disappears all over your body, so a few sips of real grapefruit juice —the fresh, no sugar added stuff— can help you ditch those batwings for good.
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.
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.