The brain releases dopamine, the “reward chemical” in response to any form of pleasure, be that exercise, sex, drugs, alcohol, or food. Unfortunately, some people become addicted to dopamine and dependent on the substances that produce it, like drugs or alcohol (and more rarely, food and sex). On the bright side, exercise can help in addiction recovery Aerobic exercise for alcohol recovery: rationale, program description, and preliminary findings. Brown RA, Abrantes AM, Read JP, Marcus BH, Jakicic J, Strong DR, Oakley JR, Ramsey SE, Kahler CW, Stuart GG, Dubreuil ME, Gordon AA. Behavior Modification. 2009 March;33(2):20-249.. Short exercise sessions can also effectively distract drug or alcohol addicts, making them de-prioritize cravings (at least in the short term) The acute effects of exercise on cigarette cravings, withdrawal symptoms, affect and smoking behaviour: a systematic review. Taylor AH, Ussher MH, Faulkner G. Sport and Health Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK. Addiction. 2007 April;102(4):534-43. Acute effect of a brief bout of exercise on alcohol urges. Ussher M, Sampuran AK, Doshi R, West R, Drummond DC. Department of Community Health Services (Psychology), St. George’s Hospital Medical School, University of London, UK. Addiction. 2004 December;99(12):1542-7.. Working out when on the wagon has other benefits, too. Alcohol abuse disrupts many body processes, including circadian rhythms. As a result, alcoholics find they can’t fall asleep (or stay asleep) without drinking. Exercise can help reboot the body clock, helping people hit the hay at the right time.
While many arms exercises are biceps-focused, this simple isolation exercise dials in on the triceps, or the backs of your arms. (If you do find your biceps working overtime, this is a great way to make sure you're building balanced upper-body strength.) "By hugging your elbows in toward your body and using your own bodyweight, this area is majorly targeted," says Speir. And it's really easy to do anywhere. "The great thing about this move is it takes up the smallest amount of space," she adds.
First, let's talk about the nutrition aspect. The number one thing you have to do is get yourself in a calorie deficit. What that means is that you are burning more calories than you are consuming on a daily basis. You also want to consume a healthy diet and limit alcohol to stay on track to your body fat and weight loss goals. Avoid eating too much fast food and focus on lean proteins that will help you build lean muscle.
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.
But, before jumping right in, take Candice’s advice. “Single leg and double leg [glute bridges] along with squats are super beneficial lower body exercises that activate glutes. Doing glute bridges prior to lunging and squatting helps ensure you get actual glute engagement when you squat, lunge, etc. so you are working the right muscles. Activation makes a huge difference—wakes ‘em up!”
Reduce your risk of heart diseases. Exercise strengthens your heart and improves your circulation. The increased blood flow raises the oxygen levels in your body. This helps lower your risk of heart diseases such as high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, and heart attack. Regular exercise can also lower your blood pressure and triglyceride levels.
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.
Another way lunges differ from traditional squats is that they train each leg individually. This is known as unilateral training. Rather than solely improving your strength, unilateral exercises increase your balance and coordination. This brings your core and back strength into play. Focusing on one leg at a time with lunges can even help with symmetry and muscular imbalances.
Harrison is also a hardcore burpee devotee. "It's a full-body exercise that will get your heart rate up, and it can be progressed and regressed in a variety of ways," she explains. (Psst—here are nine ways to do a burpee, no matter what your level is.) But her go-to burpee has a twist: "I also really love mountain climbers for some of the same reasons, so why not combine them?" The combo of the two will skyrocket your heart rate for a major cardio challenge.
HOW TO DO IT: Start in a bent-knee push-up position with your palms underneath your shoulders and knees bent at 90-degrees. Kick your right leg in front of you and assume a one-arm, one-leg hip bridge. Hold for one count, then reverse the movement and repeat on the other side. Move at a slower, more-controlled pace if it’s difficult, or even try a modified version called “sit-throughs,” where you sit on the outside of your hip as you move to each side.
Stretch your arms to the side and bring them back to your front, the right hand should overlap the left. This resembles an open scissors. You need to stretch them to the side again and bring them back to the front. This time your left arm should overlap your right. This is a complete rep and this exercise needs to be done in 3 sets of 10 reps every day.
Strength training, whether you’re lifting weights, doing bodyweight exercises or incorporating yoga moves, helps improve muscle strength and muscle mass, particularly important as we age. (8) It also keeps bones strong, thus serving as a great natural treatment for osteoporosis. Plus, increased muscle helps your body burn calories more efficiently long after your workout is over.
Jessica Matthews, M.S., E-RYT500 is faculty in kinesiology and integrative wellness at Point Loma Nazarene University and professor of yoga studies at MiraCosta College, where she helps to grow and mentor the next generation of health and wellness professionals. A dynamic speaker, respected educator, fitness industry veteran and featured wellness expert, Jessica is a trusted and recognized go-to media resource, regularly contributing to numerous publications and outlines on topics ranging from fitness and yoga, to health coaching and career development. Additionally, she serves as ACE’s senior advisor for health and fitness education, and is the lead editor and author of the ACE Group Fitness Instructor Handbook: The Professional’s Guide to Creating Memorable Movement Experiences. You can connect with her at www.jessica-matthews.com, @fitexpertjess (Twitter and Instagram) and www.facebook.com/fitexpertjess.
Dr. Robert Sallis, a family physician at Kaiser Permanente Fontana Medical Center in California, has prescribed exercise to his patients since the early 1990s in hopes of doling out less medication. “It really worked amazingly, particularly in my very sickest patients,” he says. “If I could get them to do it on a regular basis—even just walking, anything that got their heart rate up a bit—I would see dramatic improvements in their chronic disease, not to mention all of these other things like depression, anxiety, mood and energy levels.”
Research is finding that as we age, exercise may be able to help keep our brains healthy. Three studies presented at the 2015 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference showed that regular exercise may play an important role in protecting your brain from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, and may help improve brain function and symptoms such as depression or anxiety in those who have these conditions.
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."
Take a towel—technically not gear!—and run it underneath the seat of a chair—also technically not gear!—and, with the back of the chair facing away from you, do a set of biceps curls. This works only with standard, four-legged chairs in the 10-to-15 pound range, although if you can figure out how to manage it with your caster-mounted office chair, more power to you.)
Endorphins are hormones in the brain associated with a happy, positive feeling. A low level of endorphins is associated with depression. During exercise, plasma levels of this substance increase. This may help to ease symptoms of depression. A recent National Health and Nutrition survey found that physically active people were half as likely to be depressed.