A study published in October 2017 in the American Journal of Psychiatry suggested that even just one hour of exercise of any intensity each week can help prevent depression. The study monitored levels of exercise and symptoms of depression and anxiety in 33,908 adults over 11 years and found that even small amounts of physical activity had a protective effect against depression, regardless of the person’s age or gender.
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.
Exercise and physical activity are a great way to feel better, boost your health and have fun. For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. Examples include running, walking or swimming. Fit in strength training for all the major muscle groups at least twice a week by lifting free weights, using weight machines or doing body-weight exercises.
FIT TIP: To trim your tummy, do fewer crunches and more planks: Begin on all fours, hands under shoulders, knees under hips, then lower forearms to floor and extend legs straight behind you, balancing on toes. Keeping abs engaged and back flat, hold for 30 seconds; do 10 reps three or four times a week. Limit crunches to no more than three sets of 15 at a time. Anything beyond that isn't doing you much good, experts say.
Start the clock, and immediately do 10 plank taps in perfect form. When you’re done with the plank taps, go straight into jumping jacks until the clock reads 1:00. Then move on to the next move, walkouts, and do 10 perfect reps of those. Jumping jacks again until the clock reads 2:00. When you get to single-leg deadlifts, do 10 of those perfectly — stay on the same standing leg throughout — and finish out the minute with jumping jacks until it’s time for the next move at minute 3. Finish the circuit with 10 perfect jumping lunges.
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.
HOW TO DO IT: Stand with your feet together and hold both arms straight in front of you, palms together. Jump your feet apart, push your hips back, bend your knees and lower into a squat while pulling your arms apart and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Shift your weight over your right leg, and then your left leg, then right and left again before returning back to center and standing back up. Gradually increase your speed and range of motion throughout the set.
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)
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.
Another study this month, from Mayo Clinic, found that exercise in older people who were formerly sedentary had at least as strong an impact as in it did in young people—at least in the kinds of genes that were expressed. The study also found that these changes were much more robust in response to interval training than to weight lifting or moderate exercise. Which may mean that for some things, the type of exercise we chose matters.
Lovitt likes to combine two lower-body classics—a curtsy lunge and reverse lunge—into one creative exercise to mix things up. "It’s a fun, effective compound movement." Compound movements are exercises that engage more than one major muscle group, so you get more work done in less time—this one primarily works your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and inner thighs (and helps keep things fresh if you're bored of working your lower body with regular bodyweight squats or lunges). This specific combination goes like this: curtsy lunge, reverse lunge, hop (bonus!), reverse lunge, repeat.
A new study from her lab shows that a 20-minute moderate workout has measurable effects on the immune system: Participants were asked to walk or jog on a treadmill, depending on their fitness level. They measured levels of TNF, an inflammatory marker, before and after the exercise, and found that there was a 5% reduction in the number of immune cells that produced the marker.
Bend your knees and push your butt back toward your heels, and then explode from that position back to a high plank and immediately bend your elbows and bring your chest toward the ground to do a push-up. As you bend your elbows and lower toward the ground, your elbows should be at about a 45-degree angle to your body (though you can make adjustments based on what feels best for your shoulders).
Lie on your back with the left leg extended and the right knee bent. Place the right foot on the floor and extend the right arm toward ceiling. Perform a crunch-like movement to lift the upper body, transitioning into a seated position, and continue to reach the right arm up. Place the left hand on the floor next to the left hip and push through the left hand and the right foot to lift the hips off the floor. Extend through the hips, reaching back with the right arm to perform a slight backbend. Slowly lower back down to the starting position. Repeat five to six reps on the right side before switching to the left.
Starting on the hands and knees, keep a flat back and engage the core. Raise the left leg straight back, stopping when the foot is hip-level and the thigh parallel to the floor. Balance for as long as possible, then raise the bottom right toe off the floor, tightening the butt, back, and abs (try to be graceful here!). Hold for up to 10 seconds, then switch legs.
Starting your day with a workout could be the key to getting rid of those jiggly upper arms at record speed. Researchers at Northumbria University found that, among a group of physically active male study subjects, those who hit the gym before eating breakfast burned nearly 20 percent more fat than those who fueled up before exercising. So, if you’re eager to shed that fat fast, a fasting workout can help you achieve those goals right on schedule. When you’re back home post-workout, nourish your muscles with the best breakfast foods for weight loss and you’ll keep your metabolism going strong all day.
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.