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.
Even very vigorous exercise—like the interval workouts Gibala is studying—can, in fact, be appropriate for people with different chronic conditions, from Type 2 diabetes to heart failure. That’s new thinking, because for decades, people with certain diseases were advised not to exercise. Now scientists know that far more people can and should exercise. A recent analysis of more than 300 clinical trials discovered that for people recovering from a stroke, exercise was even more effective at helping them rehabilitate.
With that said, don’t relax too much, or it loses the effect. It’s okay to indulge every so often. Treat yourself to some junk food you’re craving, imbibe a drink here and there, and spend a day vegging out on your couch. Staying healthy doesn’t have to be torture. Just turn down when you can and dedicate some time to better the health of your body. You only get one.
Exercise reduces risks for serious illness. Exercise reduces people's chances of developing and dying of illnesses such as heart disease. It does this by lowering illness risk factors such as triglyceride and overall cholesterol levels, while improving the level of HDL (the "good" cholesterol which is thought to reduce the risk of heart disease). Weight-bearing exercise and strength training activities help to maintain or increase bone mass, reducing a person's risk for osteoarthritis and associated bone fractures. Regular exercise also lowers resting blood pressure rates for hours after an exercise session is over. In addition, moderate exercise may significantly reduce the risk of developing type II diabetes. Arthritics who exercise often experience more strength and flexibility in their affected joints as well as a reduced pain levels. Furthermore, exercise may delay or prevent the development of arthritis in other joints. Regular walking of over a mile a day has been shown to reduce the risk of stroke significantly. Exercise even appears to reduce the risk of developing some cancers, especially cancers of the breast and colon.
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.
Whether we’re fully conscious of it or not, we’re always looking for how to be happy. And exercise is one of the most obvious steps to take, as it’s not a coincidence that you feel better after a good workout: It’s science. A Penn State University study found that people who exercised, whether it was a mild, moderate or vigorous workout, had more pleasant feelings than those who didn’t. (1)
A workout once in a blue moon won’t do it, she says: you really have to exercise regularly, since hormone levels largely return to baseline after you exercise. That said, there’s an effect that accrues over time, which is what you want to harness by being active at least a few times a week. “What I’d caution readers is not to view our results as ‘one 20-minute moderate exercise will be a cure for all inflammatory conditions,’” says Hong. “These significant immune effects we observed occurred immediately with one bout of exercise, and likely will occur each time one exercises. So every time you exercise you’d see this effect, which will be cumulative over time.”
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.
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.
This one is a big one, since inflammation may be an underlying cause of a wide range of diseases and disorders in both body and brain. Exercise is known to reduce a number of inflammatory markers, like c-reactive protein (CRP) and internleukin-6 (IL-6), which are linked to a number of diseases. “The thing about exercise is that it has a multitude of effects on many different organs and systems,” says Suzi Hong, who studies exercise and immune system activation at the UC San Diego School of Medicine, “so often it is difficult to pinpoint which organ systems are influenced and which ones are not with which specific effects for what conditions… The anti-inflammatory effects of exercise are likely one of the underpinnings of its effects against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, certain cancers, neurodegenerative conditions and more.”
You can also pair this workout with weight lifting in the gym to really work on building muscle. Some great arm toning exercises are simple exercises like triceps dips, pull-ups, and biceps curls. You can learn how to do these in our article on how to get cut arms. You can even do some rowing to get an intense workout for all of your arm muscles. If you want to take cardio up a notch to shed arm fat faster, check out our fat loss workout video that will get you on your way to getting shredded.
A certain level of muscle strength is needed to function every day and do things such as walking and climbing stairs. Strengthening exercises increase this muscle strength by putting more strain on a muscle than it is normally accustomed to receiving. This increased load stimulates the growth of proteins inside each muscle cell that allow the muscle as a whole to contract.
So I´m almost done with the challenge. I did get a bit delayed because some days it was just too hard to add reps, so I just repeated the same count. Still, I´m feeling the results for sure and can even hold my half-cobra properly for the Beginners calendar´s Day 1, the whole time, where I couldn´t even get into the position before. It´s awesome. Hello abs, you´re next! ;D
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.
“Push-ups are a great exercise that can be done regressively or progressively. Adding things like shoulder taps, mountain climbers, or even negatives are great ways to add more effectiveness to push-ups done without weight,” explained Septh. Similarly, Barajas mentioned a change simple as switching up your hand placements (wide, narrow, etc.) will work different parts of the muscles.
For those sticklers who object to this regimen as a violation of the no-equipment stipulation—what are you, trapped in a shipping container?—Okafor has a go-to airport circuit, too, no chair required: four rounds of 20 squats, 20 lunges (with each leg), and 30 bicycle crunches. Maybe you're thinking: the airport? But don't people give you weird looks? "Of course," Okafor says. "But they're usually out of shape." Spoken like a man who isn't one bit afraid to curl a chair with a towel.
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.
You're adding lean muscle. If you did a strength-training routine, your muscles are now starting to rebuild themselves and repair the microscopic tears that come with lifting weights, says Paul Gordon, PhD, director of the Laboratory for Physical Activity at the University of Michigan School of Medicine in Ann Arbor. Preliminary research shows that women respond to and recover from resistance training faster than men.