Feeling down on yourself? Exercising can help you feel better about yourself — no matter what type of workout you do or how fit you are. One study found that “the simple act of exercise and not fitness itself can convince you that you look better.” (10) With so much emphasis on our outward appearances in society today, it’s comforting to know that one of the benefits of exercise helps people feel better about themselves and how they look naturally.
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.
If it’s about the fat, then your goal should be to lose weight overall, rather than focus on specific areas. Your best bet is to start with your nutrition. Eating a healthy and balanced diet will maximize your chances for weight loss. If you’re using the 8fit meal plan, then getting the right amount of veggies and whole grains shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
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.
Start the clock, and immediately do 10 pushups in perfect form. When you’re done with the pushups, go straight into jumping jacks until the clock reads 1:00. Then move on to the next move, spider lunges (total, not per side). Do 10 of those with good form, and then jumping jacks until the minute is up. Then move on to the next move — 10 perfect reps of the jumping lunges, and then do jumping jacks until the end of the minute. And finish up with 10 perfect walkouts.
Exercise stretches muscles and joints, which in turn can increase flexibility and help prevent injuries. Exercise may also improve balance by increasing strength of the tissues around joints and throughout the body, thus helping to prevent falls. Weight-bearing exercise, such as brisk walking and weight training, strengthens bones and helps prevent osteoporosis. Exercise often can improve function and reduce pain in people with osteoarthritis, although regimens must be developed specifically for each person, and exercises that put undue strain on joints, such as jumping and running, may need to be avoided.
It’s happened to the best of us: We gear up, cue up a killer cycling routine, and head straight for the gym— only to find out it’s temporarily closed (curse you, maintenance!). With heavy hearts and glutes dying to feel the burn, we sullenly make our way back home. At this point, you may be tempted to give up for the remainder of the day, but don’t change out of your gym clothes just yet! You already have the only workout machine you need on you.
This may be the most worthwhile reason for exercising there is. Studies have shown how people who exercise are at a significantly reduced risk of developing dementia like Alzheimer’s disease. And even for people who start exercising relatively late in life, brain volume can actually increase over time, as can scores on memory tests, compared to people who don’t exercise (their brains shrunk over time, which is normal part of aging).
Try tennis or another racket sport. Racket sports like tennis or squash are great for building arm muscles and for a total body workout. Join a recreational tennis league in your area or take tennis lessons from the tennis pro at your gym. If a family member enjoys playing squash or racquetball, ask them to give you lessons and practice your skills. You should notice marked improvements in your arm strength and better arm muscle definition the more you play racket sports.
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.
Exercise helps people to lose and maintain weight. An exercise session burns calories and elevates metabolic rate both during exercise and then for hours after exercise is completed. It helps to preserve and build lean muscle mass. It works to suppress appetite. All of these benefits work together to make exercise vital for maintaining weight loss.
Protein and fat loss go hand in hand. This nutrient supports muscle growth and raises your metabolism, making it easier to slim down. It also promotes satiety and reduces hunger, so you'll eat less without even realizing it. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition states that high-protein diets can positively impact appetite, cardiometabolic risk factors, body weight and other factors.