Power Surge: The Hidden Benefits of Exercise
Long-Term Benefits of Exercise
You're getting stronger. Those eight-pound weights don't feel quite as heavy, because your muscular endurance is starting to increase, Bryant says. Ten reps is no longer a struggle; you can now do 12 or 13.
FIT TIP: Once you can do 15 reps a set, switch to a weight that's two pounds heavier and go back to 10 reps (the last two should feel hard). Work your way up to 15 again and then repeat the process. By increasing the number of pounds you lift, you'll sculpt and strengthen better and faster.
You're blasting belly fat. After four weeks of regular workouts, your body is ditching flab and gaining muscle. Overweight people who took part in a four-week program of moderate aerobic exercise in an Australian study reduced ab fat by 12 percent.
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.
You've got more brainpower. Working out activates growth-stimulating proteins in the brain that may help form new cells there.Within One Year of Regular Exercise...
Working out is way easier. "Your endurance and aerobic fitness can increase by up to 25 percent after eight to 12 weeks of regular training," Gordon says. "In a year your endurance can more than double."
Your heart rate is lower. Thanks to regular workouts, your heart is pumping more efficiently. For instance, if your initial resting heart rate was 80 beats a minute, it will have dropped to 70 or lower. The less work your heart has to do, the healthier you'll be.
You're a fat-melting machine. Your cells are now superefficient at breaking down fat and using it as fuel, Olson says. That means you're zapping more flab 24-7.
FIT TIP: To keep your metabolism stoked, turn up the intensity of your workouts to burn more fat and calories. Raise the incline on the treadmill, run up stairs or hills, crank the resistance on the stationary bike.
You've cut your cancer risk. In a study of more than 14,800 women, those who had the highest levels of aerobic fitness were 55 percent less likely to die from breast cancer than those who were sedentary. Women considered moderately fit had about a 33 percent lower risk of developing the disease. Exercise may also help protect against endometrial, lung, and ovarian cancer, researchers say.
You're adding years to your life.
Fitness buffs have better telomeres, the DNA that bookends our chromosomes and protects them from damage, which can slow the aging process, studies show.
You feel fantastic. Just four months of exercise is as good as prescription meds at boosting mood and reducing depression, according to a study at Duke University. Keep it up and not only will your life be longer, it will be happier, too!
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, November/December 2010.
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