Studies have consistently shown that physical activity can help treat depression, and on the flipside, that low activity levels are a big risk factor for it. The antidepressant effect of exercise seems to be moderated in part through serotonin, the brain chemical that’s targeted with some antidepressants, and in part through bone-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). And this goes back to the generation of new cells mentioned earlier—exercise, though various mechanisms, seems to make the brain more plastic and more capable of growing new cells.
Use small weights to do weighted punches. Pick up a small, 1 or 2 pound weight in each hand and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bring your hands up in front of your face with your palms facing each other. Punch your right fist forward without locking your arm, then quickly pull it back as you shoot your left fist upward. Alternate the exercise this way for 60 seconds, as fast as you can.
Because exercise helps use up oxygen, it causes your body to burn stored fat and helps you maintain a normal weight. For instance, if you walk 4 miles a day four times a week, you can burn about 1,600 calories or nearly half a pound a week. If you don't change your diet at all and keep walking the same distance over six months, you'll lose 12 pounds. Walk the same distance for a year and you'll drop 24 pounds.
“Body fat is structurally important,” explains Stefanie Mendez, R.D., co-founder of Matriarch, a women's fitness and nutrition service. “It cushions our organs and insulates our body for temperature control and also is our body’s source of energy reserves. Beyond that, fat is needed for the production of hormones and reproduction functions.” And that fat can show up in your thighs, your belly, and, yes, your upper arms. Where it goes is partly due to genetics; if your mom has arm fat, science says you have a 62 percent chance of inheriting that trait.
Though there are many ways in which you can improve the appearance of your arms, we need to let you in on a little secret — arm fat is totally normal — especially with regards to women! The reason for this is quite natural, as women have higher levels of estrogen, which means there is a physiological need for some extra fat to remain healthy (actually, a whole 6-11% more fat than men). This fat is particularly useful for women who are expecting, as it ensures that the baby has enough reserves to sustain itself.
Complete sit-up pullovers. Sit-up pullovers will work your triceps and abs and help you burn fat. Hold a weight in each hand and lie on an exercise mat with your arms extended directly above you. With your knees bent and your feet flat, slowly curl your body up to lift your head, shoulders, and back off the ground. Keep your arms up and move them in a smooth arc-like motion towards your knees. Hold this position for one second, then lower yourself back down. Do 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps.
Lie on your back with the knees bent and feet hip-width apart. Place arms at your side and lift up the spine and hips. Only the head, feet, arms, and shoulders should be on the ground. Then lift one leg upwards, keeping the core tight. Slowly bring the leg back down, then lift back up. Try to do 10 reps per leg, then bring the knee in place and spine back on the floor.
And perhaps one of the best new findings about exercise — especially if you, like many people, struggle to find the time to fit it into a busy day — is that all those benefits of physical activity can be had even if you only squeeze in a few minutes of exercise a day. While doctors used to think that we needed to engage in 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day, new research is finding that we can see benefits with shorter bursts of physical activity. “As little as 15 minutes a day of high-intensity activity that leaves you breathless, like swimming, can kick start your metabolic rate and reduce body fat and increase muscle mass,” says Dr. Berger.
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.
Mediterranean diet: Traditional cuisine of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, shown to reduce the risk for heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and dementia. On the menu: Plenty of fruits, vegetables and beans, along with olive oil, nuts, whole grains, seafood; moderate amounts of low-fat yogurt, low-fat cheese and poultry; small amounts of red meat and sweets; and wine, in moderation, with meals.
“Exercise of various types can help prevent osteoporosis, thinning of bones, fracture risk, and falls that are associated with fractures of the hip, spine, and wrist,” says Larry McCleary, MD, retired acting chief of neurosurgery at Denver Children’s Hospital in Colorado, and author of Feed Your Brain, Lose Your Belly. “Types of exercise that help include aerobic exercise, resistance training, and even exercises that increase balance and agility.” Tai chi may also be beneficial when it comes to improving balance and muscle strength.
5. Stimulate all 3 “muscle fiber types” in your arm. Generally speaking, your arms have 3 types of “muscle fibers” that respond to different amounts of weight. The easiest way to stimulate all 3 types is to use heavy, medium and light weights in your workouts. Miss this one, and your results will plateau very quickly. Tip: have some caffeine right before working out if you don’t want to feel the “burn”.
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.