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.
When many people decide to "get fit," they assume it involves rigorous activity. But you don't have to spend hours in a gym to be physically active. People can get in shape by performing everyday activities in the home. Every time you and your child throw a softball, swim a lap, climb a flight of stairs, walk to the store, or carry packages, your health and fitness levels are improving.
Exercise provides socialization opportunities. Exercising outside the home, whether in the great outdoors, at a gym or recreation center, in an exercise class, sport group, walking or running club, etc., all lead to encounters with other people who also enjoy working out. New acquaintances and friendships develop readily in such contexts. Over time, having the pleasure of one's exercise group's company becomes another reason to exercise.
Jumping on the treadmill or cross trainer for 30 minutes can blow off tension by increasing levels of "soothing" brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. What's fascinating, though, is that exercise may actually work on a cellular level to reverse stress's toll on our aging process, according to a 2010 study from the University of California—San Francisco. The researchers found that stressed-out women who exercised vigorously for an average of 45 minutes over a three-day period had cells that showed fewer signs of aging compared to women who were stressed and inactive. Working out also helps keep us from ruminating "by altering blood flow to those areas in the brain involved in triggering us to relive these stressful thoughts again and again," says study coauthor Elissa Epel, an associate professor of psychiatry at UCSF.
Here's some quick physics fun: A body at rest tends to stay at rest. That's the fitness version of Newton's First Law, and it means that humans will find literally any excuse to not work out. I don't have time.... I felt a slight ache in my knee and don't want to make that worse... It's high tide. Somewhere. Probably. This happens to everyone—even the most dedicated, ruthless, disciplined gym-goers among us. (Like we said, it's science)
Now for the real solution: a 20-minute workout you can do at home. No commute to the health club, no traffic, no packing the gym bag, no waiting for the power rack to open up. Below is a great, quick workout you can do at home (or in a hotel room if you’re on the road) that focuses on the legs, chest and abs. It requires no equipment and, if done with purpose, is intense enough to give you a great pump and shock your system something fierce. Give it a try next time you’re trapped at home and have the training itch.
"This is one of my go-tos for home workouts because of how it strengthens the postural muscles," says Bloom. In other words, it's excellent for targeting your posterior chain (or the backside of your body), and that's important for improving posture, preventing back pain, and making sure you have balanced strength—which is a major key to healthy overall movement, both in and out of a gym.
The workout below, created by Jess Sims, NASM-certified personal trainer and instructor at Classpass Live, Shadowbox, and Fhitting Room in New York City, challenges your entire body and doesn't require a single piece of equipment. "It’s a full-body, dynamic workout that includes strength, power, mobility, and cardio," Sims says. "It’s also great because it’s customizable—if you have less than 20 minutes, you can do the circuit one time, or if you have more than 20 minutes you can do it three times."
But again, it's not so clear how much we need. The usual recommendations are 150 minutes/week of moderate activity, but as mentioned, that part is still up for debate. Some research suggests we need more than this to reap the benefits, while other suggests that every little bit helps. “Most research shows there is no lower threshold for health benefits,” says Paluch, “meaning that some activity is better than none and even small increases in activity will bring substantial benefits. Physical activity has the fantastic ability to act through multiple physiologic pathways in the body, making it a great bang for your buck.”
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.
Toning your arm muscles will certainly get you the definition you seek, but adding some extra protein to your diet will get you there even faster. Research published in The Journal of Nutrition reveals that packing on the protein increased muscle synthesis by as much as 25 percent, meaning that you can build stronger muscles faster, right in the privacy of your own home.
For the greatest overall health benefits, experts recommend that you do 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic activity three or more times a week and some type of muscle strengthening activity and stretching at least twice a week. However, if you are unable to do this level of activity, you can gain substantial health benefits by accumulating 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity a day, at least five times a week.
HOW TO DO IT: Assume a staggered squat position with your right leg forward (heel flat) and your left leg staggered behind on its toes, so that the front of your foot is aligned with your right heel. Push your hips back and down as far as you can while staying upright throughout the movement. Walk forwards taking short, choppy steps for 30 to 60 seconds.
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.”
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.
Begin in a plank position on the forearms. Press the hips up toward the ceiling while staying on the forearms (like an upside 'v') and gently press the heels to the floor. Hold briefly, then come back to your plank and push up onto the hands. Hold (back straight) for a few counts and then press back into a downward dog, stretching the heels to the floor and the chest gently through the arms. Come back into your plank, lower down to the elbows and repeat the entire series.