It’s unpleasant, but it’s true — as we get older, our brains get a little... hazy. As aging and degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s kill off brain cells, the noggin actually shrinks, losing many important brain functions in the process. While exercise and a healthy diet can’t “cure” Alzheimer’s, they can help shore up the brain against cognitive decline that begins after age 45 Exercise counteracts declining hippocampal function in aging and Alzheimer’s disease. Intlekofer KA, Cotman CW. Neurobiology of Disease. 2012 June 30.. Working out, especially between age 25 and 45, boosts the chemicals in the brain that support and prevent degeneration of the hippocampus, an important part of the brain for memory and learning.
Maybe you exercise to tone your thighs, build your biceps, or flatten your belly. Or maybe you work out to ward off the big killers like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. But how about sweating to improve your mind? "Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your brain in terms of mood, memory, and learning," says Harvard Medical School psychiatrist John Ratey, author of the book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. "Even 10 minutes of activity changes your brain." If you need a little extra incentive to lace up those sneakers, here are five ways that exercise can boost your brainpower.
This seven-move workout, based on Olajide's Aerosculpt class, requires nothing more than your own body weight, a jump rope, and a set of 1- to 2-pound hand weights. Begin by skipping rope, which helps tire out your arm muscles. "This way, you won't need to lift much weight to achieve results," explains Olajide. Instead of counting reps, you'll count seconds for an easy-to-follow routine that blasts fat as it sculpts muscle.
In fact, so many women hate their upper arms that they’re actually seeking surgery to get rid of it. Nearly 25,000 women received upper arm lifts—a cosmetic surgery procedure that reduces drooping skin and tightens the underlying tissue to give the arm more definition—in 2016. That number is up 4,959 percent since 2000, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
Do triangle pushups. Triangle pushups will build your shoulder and chest muscles while helping you burn calories. On an exercise mat, get into the traditional pushup position with arms shoulder-width and extended to prop up your upper body. Move your hands inwards to create a triangle under your chest, with your index fingers meeting at the top and your thumbs closing the shape at the bottom. Lower yourself almost all the way to the ground, then push yourself back up.
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.”
We have all heard it many times before - regular exercise is good for you, and it can help you lose weight. But if you are like many Americans, you are busy, you have a sedentary job, and you haven't yet changed your exercise habits. The good news is that it's never too late to start. You can start slowly, and find ways to fit more physical activity into your life. To get the most benefit, you should try to get the recommended amount of exercise for your age. If you can do it, the payoff is that you will feel better, help prevent or control many diseases, and likely even live longer.
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.
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)