One of the easiest ways to tone those arms fast is by incorporating some bicep curls into your routine. Simply raising and lowering a weight in a 180-degree range of motion, starting with your arm extended along your side, and bringing it up toward your shoulder, can yield serious definition in a hurry. Fortunately, this exercise doesn’t require a fancy gym membership or even special equipment; while it’s not hard to find a set of dumbbells for under $10, you can also use household products, like gallon jugs of water or soup cans to get the same result.
But here’s the most important thing to remember about arm fat: It’s totally normal. So many women have it because, thanks to our higher estrogen levels, we store more fat than men. On average, women carry 6 to 11 percent more body fat than men do, according to Australian research. After all, women need a certain amount of fat to be healthy—a minimum of 12 percent of their total weight, to be exact, should come from essential fat, which is found in your heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, intestines, muscles, and tissues of the central nervous system, according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
Before anyone’s crowned Cap’n Crunch, remember form is key. Lie on your back with the knees bent and feet flat on the floor. With hands behind the head, place the chin down slightly and peel the head and shoulders off the mat while engaging the core. Continue curling up until the upper back is off the mat. Hold briefly, then lower the torso back toward the mat slowly.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Exercise has been shown to lengthen lifespan by as much as five years. A small new study suggests that moderate-intensity exercise may slow down the aging of cells. As humans get older and their cells divide over and over again, their telomeres—the protective caps on the end of chromosomes—get shorter. To see how exercise affects telomeres, researchers took a muscle biopsy and blood samples from 10 healthy people before and after a 45-minute ride on a stationary bicycle. They found that exercise increased levels of a molecule that protects telomeres, ultimately slowing how quickly they shorten over time. Exercise, then, appears to slow aging at the cellular level.
Those buff lab rats might be smarter than we think. Various studies on mice and men have shown that cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells (aka neurogenesis) and improve overall brain performance Aerobic exercise is the critical variable in an enriched environment that increases hippocampal neurogenesis and water maze learning in male C57BL/6J mice. Mustroph ML, Chen S, Desai SC, Cay EB, DeYoung EK, Rhodes JS. Neuroscience Program, The Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA. Neuroscience. 2012 September 6;219:62-71. Aerobic exercise improves hippocampal function and increases BDNF in the serum of young adult males. Griffin EW, Mullally S, Foley C, Warmington SA, O’Mara SM, Kelly AM. Department of Physiology, School of Medicine, University of Dublin, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland. Physiology & Behavior. 2011 October 24;104(5):934-41.. Ready to apply for a Nobel Prize? Studies suggest that a tough workout increases levels of a brain-derived protein (known as BDNF) in the body, believed to help with decision making, higher thinking, and learning. Smarty (spandex) pants, indeed.
Now that those muscles are uncovered and ready to work on, it’ll be easier for you to see your progress, as the muscles will start to show up through the thinner layer of body fat. Arms are made up of two different muscles — the biceps in the front, and the triceps at the back. The main one to target when toning arms up is the tricep, but working out the bicep at the same time will lend your arms a more balanced structure.
Scientists don’t know exactly why exercise changes the structure and function of the brain, but it’s an area of active research. So far, they’ve found that exercise improves blood flow to the brain, feeding the growth of new blood vessels and even new brain cells, thanks to the protein BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). BDNF triggers the growth of new neurons and helps repair and protect brain cells from degeneration. It may also help people focus, according to recent research.
In a widely-cited study published in February 2013 in the American Journal of Health Promotion, researchers at Oregon State University looked at more than 6,000 American adults and found that even small amounts of physical activity — like pacing while talking on the phone or doing some jumping jacks during commercials while watching TV, as long as these short bursts of exercise add up to 30 minutes a day — can be just as beneficial as longer workout sessions at the gym.
Get down on all fours with your knees placed directly below your hips and palms placed directly below your shoulders. Now, raise your right arm forward and stretch your left leg backward at the same time. Create a tension in your back by flexing your foot. Hold the position for a few seconds and then come back to the starting position. Repeat the same using your left arm and right leg. Repeat 15 to 20 times on both sides.