TIME Exercise/Fitness

24 Fat-Burning Ab Exercises

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No, you don't have to do crunches all the time

When most people think “abs,” they think the muffin top that blooms over the top of too-tight pants. But abdominals, a set collectively known as the core, includes the many interconnected muscles that run up the back and stretch down to the butt and the front and inner thighs, says Michele Olson, PhD, professor of physical education and exercise science at Auburn University–Montgomery, Alabama.

Here are 24 moves, from simple to killer, that will keep your daily core workouts interesting.

Get more from your core

You’ll get more from your Pilates, yoga, or core-focused moves—meaning a slimmer, flatter belly—by following these tips:

  • Move from your waist. Whenever you twist, make sure the movement happens from your bottom rib up. Keep hips still.
  • Tighten up. Throughout each move, you should feel a tightening, similar to zipping up a pair of tight jeans, from one hip bone to the other.
  • Exhale deeply. To help strengthen your abs and protect your lower back, be sure to exhale thoroughly with every breath.

A new kind of crunch

Try this two-in-one abs-and-obliques move from David Barton Gym owner David Barton. 

Here’s how: Sit so thighs and upper torso form a V shape, with lower legs crossed and lifted.

Hold a 5-pound medicine ball (or dumbbell) between both hands. Swivel left to right and back, bringing ball across body while maintaining the V shape.

Do 3 sets of 15 reps 3–4 times a week.

Bridge opposite arm-leg reach

Take inches off your waistline with this do-anywhere move from fitness expert and teacher Jessica Smith.

  1. Lie faceup with your left knee bent, left foot flat on the floor, and right leg extended toward the ceiling. Reach toward the ceiling with your the left arm and keep your right arm down by your side.
  2. Without moving your hips or shoulders, open your raised leg to the right and raised arm to the left. Now, concentrating on your abs, return your raised leg and arm to the center. Do 10–12 reps, then switch sides and repeat.

Low-belly leg reach

Targets corset and six-pack. 

Lie faceup with knees bent to 90 degrees, hands behind head, and abs contracted. Keeping knees stacked over hips, lift shoulders and crunch up; inhale and hold for 3-5 seconds.

Exhale and extend legs to 45 degrees; hold for 3-5 seconds while squeezing lower belly. Do 2 sets of 10-15 reps.

Teaser

An advanced Pilates-inspired move. Lie on your back with knees bent to 90-degree angles and feet lifted. Tighten abs as you inhale, and lift arms up and back over head.

Exhale and swing arms forward, straightening legs so your body forms a V. If needed, put hands on the floor for support.

Roll down slowly, bending knees and bringing arms overhead. Do 15 reps.

Donkey kickbacks

A killer move that will torch calories as it works your core. 

Kneel on all fours, toes tucked under, keeping your back neutral. Draw your belly in toward your spine as you contract your abs and lift both knees about 2 inches off the ground.

Keeping abs engaged, bring right knee to nose (shown). Then kick right leg straight out behind you, squeezing your butt (shown); keep lower abs contracted and hips facing the ground to protect your back.

Repeat 8 times; switch legs and repeat.

Advanced leg crunches

A get-ready-for-swimsuit season move from celebrity trainer Eduardo Dias.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and a 3-pound dumbbell between your feet. Place your hands, palms down, beneath your sitting bones.
  2. Concentrating on your lower abs, use them to bring your knees in toward your chest while lifting your hips, head, and shoulders slightly. Return to the starting position; that’s 1 rep.

Do 15–30 reps 3–4 times a week; you should see results in 4 weeks.

Ana Caban’s belly blaster

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent in toward your chest. Hold 1 (3-pound) dumbbell with both hands.
  2. Extend your left leg to 45 degrees, keeping your right knee bent. Lift your head and shoulders and move the dumbbell to the outside of your right knee, pressing into a crunch with a twist (shown above).
  3. Pull your left leg in to meet your right leg and reach the weight up toward the ceiling, keeping your shoulders and head elevated off the floor. Now repeat step 2, but this time extend your right leg and keep your left knee bent. That’s 1 rep.

Do 8 reps 4 times per week, and you should see results in 3 weeks.

Oblique driving-knee crunch

Lie on your back on a stability ball with your feet hip-distance apart on the floor and knees bent to 90 degrees. Place your right hand behind your head and your left fingertips on the floor for balance. Brace your core and lift your left foot off the floor. Extend your left leg, foot flexed.

Crunch up, twisting your right shoulder and rib cage toward your left knee while simultaneously stretching your right leg straight (keep your foot on the floor). Return to starting position (left leg lifted and right leg bent); that’s 1 rep.

Do 15 reps, then switch sides and repeat.

Scale Pose

“I’m a fan of this efficient move not only for its core (and arm!) strengthening but also because it’s a great way to strengthen your pelvic floor—and that helps in everything from better sex to better posture.”

Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position with hands on a mat next to your hips. Tighten your pelvic floor (as if you have to pee and are holding it in), push into your hands, and lift your entire lower body off the mat.

Hold for 3 breaths, then lower back down. This is a pretty challenging move, so if you can’t lift your whole lower half, keep your feet on the floor and just lift your butt. Do 3 reps.

Boat pose

Sit with your feet on the floor, knees bent, hands beneath your knees for support. Keeping your chest lifted and shoulders back, engage your ab muscles and raise your lower legs until they are parallel to the floor (your knees should still be bent) and you are balancing on your sitting bones.

If this feels comfortable, begin to straighten your legs (stop if you feel any discomfort in your back) and stretch your arms forward. Hold for 5–15 breaths, then release. Repeat up to 5 times.

Cross-leg diagonal crunch

Lie on your back with your legs straight and feet on the floor. Keeping your torso still, lift your hips and move them a bit to the right; lower and straighten your legs again.

Bend your left knee and cross it over your right leg, placing your left foot on the floor near the outside of your right knee. Crunch up, then come back down.

Do 50 reps, then switch sides and repeat.

Tone-it V hold

Uses fast-twitch muscle fibers (the ones that contract during high-intensity moves and help improve muscle tone)

Sit with knees bent and feet on floor. Clasp underside of thighs with both hands, hinge back, and lift feet until lower legs are parallel to floor; release hands. Straighten legs and reach for your toes; hold for 8 breaths. Repeat 3 times.

Plank

“I’m all about this one-stop-shop move: It not only tones my entire core but also strengthens and sculpts my arms, butt, and thighs.”

Kneel on a mat on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders. Stretch your legs back one at a time to come into plank position (the “up” part of a push-up); engage your ab muscles. Your body should be long and straight; don’t let your hips sag or lift your butt too high. Imagine there’s a seat belt tightening around your waist, drawing your lower-ab muscles inward.

Press your hands firmly into the mat, and press strongly back through your heels. Hold for 1–2 minutes (or as long as you can), then drop back to all fours. Do 3 reps.

Body-weight squat

Stand with feet hip-width, knees bent slightly, hands crossed over chest. Squat down, pressing weight into feet. Make sure feet are pointing straight ahead and knees are over your toes; keep bum tucked. Return to standing.

Do 5 sets of 5 reps.

Swan dive

Lie on your stomach, stretch your arms overhead, point your toes, and lift your arms and legs about 6 inches off the ground. Hold for 1 count, imagining your legs being pulled out and back, away from your hips.

Next, circle your arms out to the sides and behind you. Exhale and reach your arms toward your toes, palms facing in (shown). Hold for 1 count, then bring arms back to starting position and relax entire body to ground. Repeat 6–8 times.

Windshield wiper

Lie on your back with knees bent to 90-degree angles. Straighten your arms by your sides, and lengthen your fingertips. Press the backs of your shoulders against a mat, and slide them down away from your ears. Focusing on the deep waist muscles, inhale and slowly move your knees to the right, then exhale and return to starting position. Repeat on the left; that’s 1 rep. Do 5–8 reps.

Plank on the ball

Kneel in front of a stability ball, draping your abs and hips over the ball. Place your hands on the ground in front of you and walk them out until the ball rolls beneath your thighs (as shown above).

Once your body is straight (with a slight arch in your back) and you’re stable, hold for 30 seconds. Focus on lifting belly button and squeezing thighs.

Jumping jack reach

While seated, hold the ball and jump legs apart, then together, then apart again. Stand and reach left hand to the right (use right hand to keep ball in place). Sit back down, jump legs together, and repeat sequence on the other side; that’s 1 rep. Do 4 reps, then do Basic Bounce for 1 minute. Repeat sequence 3 more times.

Standing side crunch

Stand holding ball overhead, elbows bent and out to sides, and feet shoulder-width apart. Lift right knee to side; pull right elbow down to meet it. Return to starting position; repeat on other side. Bounce ball for 1 minute. Repeat sequence 3 more times.

Basic pump (for abs)

  1. Stand with one leg forward and the hoop around your waist, holding it against the small of your back. Bend knees slightly, then spin the hoop by giving it a big push around in one direction. (Be sure the hoop is level.)
  2. Shift your weight between your forward and backward legs to move your hips forward and backward (as opposed to around), pushing and pulling to keep the hoop spinning.

Circles in the sky

For core, inner thighs, outer hips, butt.

Lie on your back with hands behind your head. Contract abs, lifting upper body slightly off the ground. Raise right leg 5 inches (or keep it on the ground if that’s too challenging) and left leg straight up toward the sky.

Keeping your core engaged and hips stable, trace 4 softball-size circles clockwise with your entire left leg; reverse, circling 4 times counterclockwise. Lower both legs, switch sides, and repeat.

Side incline with a twist

For triceps, biceps, core, waist

.

Lie on your right side with forearm directly under shoulder, hand perpendicular to your body, and legs stacked. Engage your abs and the right side of your waist, lifting your hips so your body forms a straight line from head to feet.

Extend your left arm toward the sky, staying engaged through your core (shown). Now scoop your left arm in front of your body and reach under the space between your chest and the ground, twisting only from the waist up.

Come back up; repeat 4 times, then lower body to the ground. Repeat on the opposite side.

Supine twist

  1. Lie on your back with legs stretched out straight. Inhale as you bend your right knee and bring it in toward your chest; hug it tightly with both hands.
  2. Exhale as you use your left hand to gently press your right knee over to the left side, allowing your torso to twist. Stretch your right arm out to the right at shoulder height.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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TIME Exercise/Fitness

5 Ways to Get Toned With a Medicine Ball

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Try a new total-body workout routine

Bored of those dumbbells? Try swapping out your free weights for a medicine ball instead. Medicine ball training is one of the oldest and most effective forms of strength conditioning ever since the Greeks discovered the physical fitness benefits of exercising with weighted balls. It is one workout trend that has lasted the test of time.

So, if you’re looking to breathe new life into your workout routine, grab a 10-15 pound medicine ball and try these five exercises for a seriously sculpting total-body workout.

Rolling Push-Up

Adding a medicine ball to this already challenging move can morph this mostly upper-body exercise into a full body blaster. Get into a high plank position and place the medicine ball under one hand. Lower the chest toward the floor to perform a push-up; press back up then transfer the ball to the other hand. Do 5-10 push ups on each side. To modify, drop to your knees.

Lunge With Twist

Adding the medicine ball (and a twist) to your lunge helps engage the abdominals and obliques in addition to the legs, making it a more full body move. Holding a medicine ball out in front of you, step forward into a lunge with the right leg. When you hit the lowest point in your lunge, start to twist the ball to the right, rotating the torso. Bring the ball back to center and then step back up to a standing position. Do the twist in place or moving forward as walking lunges. Do 10 with each leg.

Weighted Superman

Get ready to lift off with this all over back of the body move. Lie face down on the mat with arms stretched out in front holding the medicine ball. Slowly raise the arms and legs up as high as possible, engaging your back. Be sure to keep your core engaged to protect the lower part of your spine. Hold the position at the top for a few counts and then slowly lower the body down to the mat. Repeat 10-15 times.

Ball Fly

This one might take a few times to master, but once you find your balance you’re sure to look like a pro. Lie face up on a Swiss ball with the neck and shoulder blades resting on the ball’s center, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keeping the hips raised and core engaged, hold the medicine ball up to the ceiling with both hands. Slowly shift the ball to one hand and lower the arm down so it’s parallel with the floor. (Be sure to maintain a soft bend in the elbow). Bring the ball back to center and shift the ball to the other hand to repeat on the other side. That’s one rep. Do 5-10 reps.

V-Up With Ball Pass

Get the core fired up with this ab-tastic V-Up. Lying flat on your back, extend your legs straight out in front of you and bring the ball overhead with both hands. Engage the core to lift the hands and feet simultaneously up so that the body forms a ‘V’ shape. Once there, pass the ball from the hands to the feet and, squeezing the ball between your feet, lower your arms and legs back down to the floor. Return to the ‘V’ and pass the ball back to the hands before lowering down. That’s one rep. Try for 10 reps. If you can get to 15, we applaud you.

For more workouts using the bosu ball, check out 4 Key Ab Muscles And How To Target Them.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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TIME Exercise/Fitness

The Pros and Cons of Running on the Treadmill

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Running on a treadmill is easier on your joints

Is it better to run on a treadmill or outside on the pavement? It’s an age-old question and the truth is there are pros and cons to both. There are definitely some types of workouts you can do better or more efficiently on a treadmill. However, running on a ‘mill can create that aimless, never-ending ‘hamster wheel’ feeling for some. It depends on your goals, injury history, and preference, too.

Here are 6 pros and cons to running on a treadmill versus running outside on the pavement or trail.

Pro: The difficulty level is the same

The question of difficulty level always arises when it comes to running indoors versus out. People assume that running outside is empirically harder than logging miles inside on a treadmill. However, research has proven that setting the treadmill to a 1% incline accurately reflects the same energy costs of running outdoors. So, it’s just as effective as long as you add a little incline.

Read more: 15 Running Tips You Need to Know

Pro: It’s easier on your joints

The smooth, cushioned belt is more forgiving than hard pavement or cement. Running on a treadmill can help reduce some of the impact on the joints and the body as a whole. This can be especially helpful when rehabbing or coming back from an injury. Make sure you ease your way back to the road following an injury by alternating treadmill and outdoor runs a few times a week, instead of going cold turkey.

Read more: 7 Running Injuries and How to Avoid Them

Pro: You can simulate race environments

Many of the more advanced treadmills allow you to create your own unique course profile, which you can use to simulate the exact course you’re training for. Even if you’re not training for a race, you can switch up your workout by choosing a certain trail or terrain from around the world, depending on the options, to make you feel as though you’re half a world away. You also have no worries of weather, temperature, or terrain issues while running on a treadmill, which can mean everything if you live in a very cold or wet part of the country.

Read more: 7 Ways to Make Your Treadmill Runs More Effective

Con: You could lose your agility

Although the treadmill might provide your joints with more cushion, you don’t get the added benefit of running on uneven terrain or pavement. Even if the ground outside might feel flat to you, it never truly is. Therefore, your foot and leg muscles are constantly making small adjustments to adapt to the changing surfaces. These adjustments are great for coordination and balance and will help improve your ability to do everyday things. While treadmill running can help improve your overall fitness, it won’t mimic the real-life situations that are simulated through running outdoors.

Read more: Here’s How Much Running Is Healthiest for You, According to One Study

Con: You don’t work as many muscles

Because there is a machine powering the belt, the muscle mechanics differ when you run on the treadmill. Outside, you typically rely on your hamstrings to finish the stride cycle and lift your legs behind you, almost kicking your butt. But on a treadmill, the propulsion of the belt does much of that work for you. You use your quads to push off, but your hamstrings aren’t firing as much as they would if you were running outdoors. If you’re only running on the treadmill, be sure that you’re also doing cross training to work the muscles on the back of your legs, including your hamstrings and glutes.

Read more: 10 Exercise Cheats That Blow Your Calorie Burn

Con: It’s boring

There are no two ways about it: Running inside is boring. Even if you have the best playlist or you’re watching TV, it’s just too easy to look at that clock directly in front of you—and see that only 30 seconds have passed since the last time you checked it. (You can try covering the display with a towel to keep that clock out of sight). When running outside, the time naturally seems to move faster because you are literally covering more ground. Plus, you set a literal finish line for your run and see it getting closer and closer as you approach it. This provides you with a more natural sense of distance and will give you that extra push to finish strong when you feel like giving up.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

The Smell of Your Sweat Can Make Other People Happy

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Another reason happiness might be contagious

People seem to be able to send happy vibes through their sweat, according to a new study in Psychological Science. The study found that women showed more signs of happiness when they sniffed sweat made by happy men than when they smelled sweat generated by men in a neutral emotional state.

“Being exposed to sweat produced under happiness induces a simulacrum of happiness in receivers, and induces a contagion of the emotional state,” said study author Gün Semin, a professor at Utrecht University, in a statement. “Somebody who is happy will infuse others in their vicinity with happiness.”

MORE: What Pheromones Really Reveal About Your Love Life

Determining how sweat affects the happiness of the people who smell it required some unusual experiments. Researchers showed film clips to a group of 12 men that inspired either fear or happiness. A control group of men was shown neutral scenes. After screening the clips, researchers collected sweat samples from the men by placing pads in their armpits and asked 36 women to smell a vial with the scent of the pads. Researchers measured the facial expression prompted by each sweat sample. Women smiled more when they smelled the sweat of happy men than sweat made after men watched a neutral video clip.

The study is small and more research is needed. Previous research has shown that chemosignaling—or conveying emotion through smell—can inspire negative emotions in others, but these findings show that smells might be able to inspire happy emotions, too.

Read next: 6 Signs You’re Not Working Out Hard Enough

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TIME apps

7 Exercise Apps For People Who Hate Working Out

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Whether you're motivated by money, competition or a simple push notification, there's an app to help you get moving

Looking to get in shape for summer? Fitness may be its own reward, but these seven apps can sweeten the deal by prodding, encouraging and even paying users to roll off of that couch and unleash their inner gym bunnies — or just move a bit more. No pressure.

Human

Human can track a whole range of movements, in and out of doors, whether the user is pounding the pavement or dancing alone in front of the mirror. Any activity short of shifting about in a chair counts toward a daily goal of 30 minutes in motion (busybodies can revise their goal upwards to 60 or 90 minutes). On those occasional inert days, the app automatically prods the user to get moving. It’s a great starter app for anyone who wants to get active, but doesn’t want to commit to a single, repetitive fitness routine.

Gympact

It pays to workout with Gympact, literally. A community of users bet $5 to $10 that they’ll stick to their weekly exercise routine. Those who break their pact automatically lose money, which is disbursed to those who uphold their end of the bargain. The app tracks progress toward your weekly goals using the phone’s motion sensor for movement and GPS for gym visits. With payouts ranging from $0.30 to $5, the carrot doesn’t quite match the stick. Then again, it’s one of the only workout apps to brandish a carrot and a stick in the first place.

Fitocracy

Fitocracy adds a competitive twist to the workout routine, awarding points for each recorded workout, badges for significant milestones and bragging rights on a social network of more than one million users (including Arnold Schwarzenegger). If points, public glory and a loose affiliation with the Terminator aren’t motivation enough, users can also hire a personal trainer for coaching and nutritional advice at $1 a day.

Couch to 5K

Couch to 5K may sound like an ambitious goal for anyone on the couch-end of the spectrum, but this app’s training regimen starts easy and gradually ratchets up the run time from one training session to the next. Audio cues from a personal trainer prompt the user to push just a little bit longer than the previous session. Stick to the program, and novice runners can complete a 5 kilometer (3.1 mile) circuit within nine weeks.

RockMyRun

RockMyRun arranges music mixes by tempo, so that the beat falls roughly in line with your running pace, whether its an easy jog (120 beats per minute) or a hard run (150 beats per minute). Android users can manually change the tempo, but iPhone users can take advantage of the latest feature: tempos that automatically sync up to footfalls or heartbeats.

Johnson & Johnson 7 Minute Workout

Ever since a groundbreaking fitness study found that 7 minutes of exercise could yield impressive results, there has been a veritable explosion of 7-minute workout apps. Johnson & Johnson whipped up the cleanest looking interface. Reading the instructions is the easy part — actually following through on the high-intensity workout, not so much. On the upside, the end is always seven minutes in sight.

Type n Walk

The absolute last refuge for texting addicts, Type n Walk uses the smartphone camera to display the pavement immediately in front of you in real-time. Compose texts or emails against this moving backdrop. “This combined with your peripheral vision is just enough visual information to help you avoid obstacles,” the app makers say. Test their claim at your own risk.

Read next: The 10 Essential Rules of Gym Etiquette

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TIME Exercise/Fitness

15 Ways Exercise Makes You Look and Feel Younger

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Put down the creams and potions and start sweating off the years

The powers of a steady fitness routine are impressive: regular exercise can help you build stronger muscles, stave off chronic illnesses, and make your clothes fit a whole lot better. But there’s another benefit of physical activity that deserves a shout-out: the way even moderate amounts seem to shave years off your age, no matter how many birthdays you’ve actually celebrated. Of course, you can’t change your chronological age, but exercise can improve your health to the point where you look and feel younger than you are, says Frank Frisch, PhD, director of kinesiology at Chapman University in Orange, Calif. Behold the 15 physical and mental effects a sweat session can have on your brain and body. Just reading this list will motivate you to never blow off a gym session again.

Exercise gives you more vim and vigor

A workout is like nature’s energy drink, firing up your brain and body so you feel more alert and alive. “Exercise puts your body in a state of arousal, which translates into more vitality and a greater sense of well being,” says Frisch. “Daily tasks become less strenuous and require less exertion.” It’s the kind of pep in your step that makes you feel like you’ve peeled off a decade or two.

Exercise jumpstarts your sex drive

A sweat session improves blood flow all over your body, including below the belt, and the extra blood surge makes you feel more responsive and increasing arousal, says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale School of Medicine. Exercise also powers your sex drive in a psychological way. “Working out brings on more confidence about your appearance and body, and that puts you in a sexier mindset,” says Dr. Minkin. And don’t forget the all-over energy surge exercise offers, which gives you extra fuel so you can rock the sheets.

Read more: 15 Everyday Habits to Boost Your Libido

Exercise keeps your skin soft and glowing

A dewy sheen on your cheeks thanks to all the sweat dripping off your forehead may not be the only way fitness keeps your skin young. Researchers at McMaster University in Ontario studied a small group of adults between ages 20 and 84. The frequent exercisers who were over age 40 had skin that resembled the more supple, elastic skin of people in their 20s and 30s. The difference had nothing to do with sun exposure (which would age your skin faster if you didn’t wear sunscreen), reported the research team; they theorized that exercise creates body substances that help slow aging in skin, though they say more research is needed to learn how exercise changes skin composition.

Exercise improves your posture

Thanks to muscle loss and bone density changes, your posture takes a hit as you age. Counteract this with strength training, which builds muscle and bone health, especially in your core and along your spine, so you naturally stand taller and shave years off your appearance, says Amie Hoff, personal trainer and founder of Hoff Fitness in New York City. Working out also makes you feel more psychologically powerful, so you naturally stop slouching and straighten up, she adds.

Read more: 10 Ways to Have Great Posture as You Age

Exercise improves your flexibility

Aging doesn’t just make your opinions more inflexible—it makes your muscles and joints more fixed in place as well, leaving you feeling stiff and rickety. Regular workouts, especially stretching-oriented routines such as yoga and Pilates, keep you loose and bendy, says Hoff. “If cardio workouts are your preference, you can still boost your flexibility by warming up and cooling down with foam roller exercises,” she suggests. This foam fitness tool gets rid of the knots that form in muscle, reducing rigidity.

Read more: 4 Things You Need To Know About Foam Rolling

Exercise boosts your mood

You’ve heard of runner’s high, and that blissful mood boost can happen during any sweat-inducing cardio workout. It seems to come down to endorphins: the body chemicals your system cranks out when you’re active. “Endorphins are like natural opiates,” says Eric Sternlicht, PhD, associate professor of kinesiology at Chapman University. Some evidence shows that gym sessions can trigger changes in other neurotransmitters linked to pleasurable feelings, such as dopamine. And the confidence kick you get helps you feel happier too.

Exercise helps you sleep soundly

Restful sleep is like a fountain of youth, and exercise helps you achieve it. “Research shows that regular exercisers fall asleep more easily and are more likely to experience deep REM sleep,” says Frisch. A heart-pumping workout tires you out, sure, but there’s more to it than that. Sleeping well helps all the systems in your body function optimally, so you’re less likely to feel stressed and then toss and turn all night. A recent study bears this out, finding that getting at least 150 minutes of exercise per week improved sleep quality by 65%.

Exercise keeps your metabolism high

Metabolism naturally slows as you age, so it’s harder to avoid pound creepage as the years pass. Luckily scheduling regular workout sessions helps you increase the total number of calories you burn, helping you maintain a steady, healthy weight. You’ll torch more calories if you add in resistance training to your routine at least a few times a week, since working out with free weights or doing bodyweight exercises helps build muscle mass. “The more muscle you have, the higher your calorie burn is,” says Sternlicht. “And it stays higher all day long, even after you’ve stopped exercising.”

Exercise slows cell aging

Exercise doesn’t just make you feel younger—it may actually turn off the aging process in your chromosomes. It has to do with telomeres, the caps at the end of chromosomes that control aging. Telomeres become shorter as you get older, and longer telomeres are associated with longevity. Recent studies have found a link between regular exercise and the lengthening of the telomeres, suggesting that exercise can slow the clock so you live longer. “Though exercise won’t guarantee you a long life, it can greatly improve your odds,” says Frisch.

Exercise reduces belly fat

As you creep into middle age, fat that used to primarily land on your hips and thighs starts to increasingly show up along your belly; this is especially true after menopause. Unlike fat on other body areas, this visceral fat, as it’s known, can increase your risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. It’s stubborn, but regular cardio sessions appear to reduce or erase it. A 2011 Duke University study found that cardio workouts can lead to more belly fat loss than strength training workouts or a combo of strength training and cardio.

Read more: 11 Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Belly Fat

Exercise relieves stress

A long outdoor run or scenic hike can distract you from anxiety and worries. But there may be a physiological reason exercise lowers stress levels. “The endorphin release prompted by a workout has a relaxing effect and reduces anxiety,” says Zonoozi. Also, more meditative forms of exercise, such as yoga or Tai Chi, encourage mindfulness along with moving your body. Staying in the moment so you focus on your breathing and heart rate make it a lot harder to mentally freak out about a stressful work project or that fight you had last night with a friend.

Exercise enhances your memory

As years pass, it’s normal to become forgetful. But research suggests that you can fight brain fog with fitness. Researchers writing in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2014 found that regular aerobic exercise seems to increase the size of the hippocampus, a part of the brain associated with memory. Previous research has also linked exercise to sharper cognitive skills. If you’re experiencing more senior moments these days, dial them back by getting on the treadmill.

Exercise makes your heart more efficient

Like all muscles, your heart gets weak and flabby with inactivity. As a result, it has to work harder to pump blood throughout your body, racking up more stress and leaving you feeling easily fatigued and winded. Good thing even moderately intense exercise (like a brisk 30-minute walk) can make your heart stronger, so it pumps oxygen-rich blood more efficiently through your system, resulting in less strain, says Rhonda Zonoozi, exercise physiologist and certified health and wellness coach at the Sun Health Center for Health and Wellbeing in Arizona.

Exercise protects you from heart disease

Exercise’s heart-healthy benefits don’t stop there. Regular workouts also reduce your risk of cardio problems that tend to crop up with age, such as high blood pressure and high levels of triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood that can block or harden arteries. Both are big-time contributors to heart disease, the number one killer of men and women, according to the CDC. “Exercise also improves levels of HDL, or good cholesterol, the kind that protects your heart from cardiovascular disease,” says Zonoozi.

Read more: 14 Things Heart Doctors Tell Their Friends

Exercise improves your blood flow

As you age, it’s not only joints that can get stiff—the blood vessels in your body can lose their flexibility. This makes it harder for them to expand and contract as needed to deliver oxygen-rich blood to parts of the body that need it the most (like the brain, heart, and muscles.) And stiffer arteries can raise your blood pressure, meaning your heart has to work harder to pump blood through them. Exercise can lower blood pressure and improve circulation, and some research suggests that even simple stretching—think yoga, Pilates, or any stretching moves—can help boost flexibility of blood vessels.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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TIME Exercise

American Medical Schools Aren’t Teaching the Importance of Exercise

"I was surprised that medical schools didn’t spend more time on it"

Many doctors are finishing medical school without getting any training in the importance of exercise, a new study shows.

Researchers at Oregon State University found that less than half of physicians trained in the U.S. in 2013 had received any instruction on exercise, based on curriculum records listed online.

Of the 118 of 170 American medical schools that listed their curriculum online, 51% of schools didn’t offer exercise-related classes, 21% had one class and 82% didn’t require students to learn about physical activity.

“There are immense medical benefits to exercise; it can help as much as medicine to address some health concerns,” Brad Cardinal, an OSU professor of sports science, said in the study’s press release. “Because exercise has medicinal as well as other benefits, I was surprised that medical schools didn’t spend more time on it.”

TIME Exercise/Fitness

10 Habits of People Who Love to Work Out

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Experts say you can teach yourself to love exercise

You know these people: they bound out of bed in the morning ready to tackle their sunrise bike rides. They leave the office during lunch to sneak in a quick run. Or they head out of work, gym bag in hand—and they’re going to use it (not just bring it back home). They’re the ones who look like they’re actually enjoying themselves as they pedal furiously at Spin. Can you be more like these fitness fanatics? Experts say yes, you can teach yourself to love exercise. Get into the workout groove by mimicking their habits.

They only do workouts they enjoy

People who love to exercise don’t waste time with activities they despise. “Too often I see people who sign up to do something like running, even though they know they hate running,” says Shavise Glascoe, exercise physiologist at the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center. Start with an activity that you’re interested in or already enjoy—it doesn’t have to be what your neighbor said helped her lose weight or what the group-class trend of the moment is. What matters is that you like it. If you don’t want to do it, you will make an excuse to skip it tonight (and tomorrow, and the next day).

Read more: 4 Fat-Blasting Jumping Exercises

They look for feedback

Fitness fanatics often thrive on instant feedback, says Jimmy Minardi, a former professional cyclist and personal trainer in New York City and Santa Barbara, Calif. He suggests trying out a fitness tracker that measures heart rate or calories burned. That real-time feedback will help you push yourself further—you’ll always feel motivated to match or exceed your personal best—and take your workouts to the next level. Plus, Minardi says, you’ll be more connected to your training.

They exercise with a friend

Exercise addicts get by with a little help from their friends, says Glascoe. They’re sure not to ditch their yoga buddy for an om-session even when they’d rather beeline straight home, and are excited to get out of bed for a morning run because they’ll have the chance to chit-chat with their pals. Case in point: in a University of Southern California study, people said they had more fun and enjoyed working out more when they did it with a friend. Don’t assume that none of your friends want to work out—you may find one who wants to get in shape alongside you. But you could also find a workout buddy by joining a local running or biking club, or signing up for a recreational sports league.

Read more: 11 Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Belly Fat

They get back to nature

When the weather outside is nasty, it’s natural to want to take exercise inside. But if it’s nice and bright out, bike along that lakefront path, run through your neighborhood early in the morning, or find an outdoor yoga class. “Nature makes you feel alive—and when you feel great, you are more likely to want to do the workout again,” says Minardi. Besides, in one 2011 study in Environmental Science & Technology, sweating outdoors was associated with a boost of energy, more engagement in the activity, and better mental wellbeing. Go ahead—sweat, and say ahhh.

They let setbacks slide

Sometimes life gets in the way of exercise, and that’s okay, says Glascoe: “Studies show that people who have wiggle room in their mindset are more likely to maintain a regular exercise routine,” she says. “Prepare yourself for potential barriers and come up with a backup plan.” Glascoe has her clients plan the maximum and minimum number of days they want to exercise in a week. That way, if they miss one, there’s no “I’ve blown it” mentality. If you have to work late and can’t hit Spin, tell yourself that tomorrow you’ll get back on track.

Read more: 5 Ways to Work Your Abs Without Crunches

They don’t think about how much weight they’re losing

“We seem to be more powerfully motivated when we look at the short-term, immediate benefits of exercise,” says Gregory Chertok, a sport psychology consultant. Rather than focusing on the 20 pounds you want to lose (which, turns out, doesn’t help us get off our butts and get moving, he says), think about the almost instantaneous extra energy you’ll get with your kids, at work, or in the bedroom. And anyway, when you stop thinking about how your workouts are affecting your weight, you may actually start seeing the pounds melt away: Cornell University research suggests that framing your exercise as something other than calorie burning (like a break or “me time”) can help you eat less after.

They don’t care if it’s ‘traditional’

Exercise is exercise—doesn’t matter if it’s at the gym or not. All types of activity count, so try baking your playtime into your workout time by becoming a member of the company kickball team, joining a beach volleyball league, or trying something you’re curious about, like martial arts. “You’re creating a lasting relationship with the activity, rather than simply showing up for classes,” Minardi says. Other activities that count? Gardening, running in the backyard with your kids, and dancing (even if it’s a dance party for one in your living room), adds Chertok.

Read more: 10 Fun Ways to Get Fit Without a Gym

They crank up the tunes

There’s a reason why you see so many people wearing earbuds at the gym: Music is a huge motivator, reveals research in the International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology. “Use music to improve your results. People exercise longer and more vigorously to music, and it distracts them from fatigue,” says Chertok. He recommends compiling a playlist of your favorite music. When you need motivation to get out the door, put your headphones on and get inspired to sweat.

They reward themselves

Your goal is to make exercise an automatic habit that you don’t have to agonize over. (Do I really have to go to the gym after work today? Am I actually going to get up early for that run?) A way to reinforce the routine is to reward yourself for a job well done, says Chertok. One of his clients set up a checking account that he uses to deposit a set amount of money each week he successfully sticks to his fitness goals. And every time he misses them? He withdraws money. At the end of the month, he takes the money he saved and does something fun, like signing up for a cooking class or buying tickets for a show. You can also plan mini rewards, like stopping by your favorite coffee shop or juice bar post-workout. (Just don’t go overboard on treats.) It’s something to get you up and moving when you’d rather not.

They dress the part

Truth: you don’t need expensive workout gear to have a great workout. But, buying new athletic apparel may be a good motivator. “We feel better about ourselves doing something athletic when we perceive ourselves as looking more athletic,” says Chertok. So switch out your old, rundown pair of shoes in favor of new kicks, pick up a new sporty headband to accessorize, or spring for a pair of running shorts if you’re starting to train for your first 10K.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

Read next: The Best Workout Move You’re Not Doing

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TIME Exercise/Fitness

10 Reasons Your Belly Fat Isn’t Going Away

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The choices you make every day can supercharge your ability to burn belly fat

A little bit of belly fat is actually good for you: it protects your stomach, intestines, and other delicate organs. But too much fat is anything but healthy. Extra fat cells deep in your abdomen (aka visceral fat) generate adipose hormones and adipokines—chemical troublemakers that travel to your blood vessels and organs, where they cause inflammation that can contribute to problems like heart disease and diabetes. The good news? Every pound you shed can help reduce your girth. “Once women start losing weight, they typically lose 30% more abdominal fat compared with total fat,” says Rasa Kazlauskaite, MD, an endocrinologist at the Rush University Prevention Center in Chicago. Even better, the choices you make every day can supercharge your ability to burn belly fat. Here are 10 common pitfalls—and ways to undo each one.

Read more: 20 Best Superfoods for Weight Loss

You’re on a low-fat diet

To shed belly fat, it’s good to eat fat—specifically monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). When researchers in one study asked women to switch to a 1,600-calorie, high-MUFA diet, they lost a third of their belly fat in a month. “MUFAs are satiating, so they help you eat fewer poor-quality foods,” says David Katz, MD, director of the Yale Prevention Research Center.

Belly blaster: Have a serving of MUFAs—like a handful of nuts, a tablespoon of olive oil, or a quarter of an avocado—with every meal and snack.

Read more: 9 Low-Fat foods You Should Never Eat

You’ve been feeling blue for a while

Women with depressive symptoms were far more likely to have extra belly fat, found a recent Rush University Medical Center study. That may be because depression is linked to reduced physical activity and poor eating habits.

Belly blaster: Exercise! “It improves levels of brain chemicals that regulate metabolism of fat, as well as your mood,” Dr. Kazlauskaite says. This enhances your motivation to do other things that help ward off depression, like seeing friends. But if you’re so bummed out that you don’t want to do things you used to enjoy, it’s time to seek the help of a therapist.

Your food comes from a box

Simple carbs (like chips) and added sugar (in items like sweetened drinks) cause your blood sugar to spike, which triggers a flood of insulin—a hormone that encourages your liver to store fat in your middle.

Belly blaster: Instead of focusing on cutting out junk, center your efforts on adding in healthy fare (think extra servings of vegetables at each meal). As Dr. Katz says, “Filling your tank with high-quality fuel thwarts hunger.”

You’re skimping on the miracle mineral

Magnesium regulates more than 300 functions in the body. No surprise, then, that a 2013 study found that people who consumed more of it had lower blood sugar and insulin levels.

Belly blaster: At least twice a day, reach for magnesium-rich foods such as dark leafy greens, bananas, and soybeans.

You’re hooked on diet soda

A study in Obesity found that diet soda drinkers were more likely to have a high percentage of fat in their bellies. The researchers think that diet drinkers may overestimate the calories they’re “saving,” and then overeat.

Belly blaster: If you’re not ready to kick your habit, the researchers suggest reducing the number of food calories in your diet.

Read more: 10 Reasons to Give Up Diet Soda

You love burgers

When Swedish researchers gave one group of adults 750 extra daily calories, mainly from saturated fat, and another group the same amount of calories but mostly from polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) for seven weeks, the saturated fat group accumulated two times as much visceral fat.

Belly blaster: Dine on fatty fish like salmon or trout once a week to get a good dose of PUFAs. The rest of the time, reduce your intake of red meat and opt instead for protein low in saturated fat, such as legumes and chicken.

You think girls don’t get beer guts

According to a 2013 Danish study, beer may indeed be linked with abdominal obesity. And though beer appears to have the greatest impact, wine won’t save you from a spare tire: One study found that the amount of alcohol of any type that women drank contributed to weight gain.

Belly blaster: Stick with seven or fewer alcoholic beverages a week. Light to moderate drinkers are the least likely to carry excess weight anywhere, shows a recent Archives of Internal Medicine study.

You can’t recall when you last said “om”

Menopause-related hormonal changes (which typically begin in your 40s) make it harder to shed stomach pudge—but vigorous yoga can help offset the effects. A 2012 study found that postmenopausal women who did an hour-long yoga session three times a week for 16 weeks lost more than 1/2 inch around their waists.

Belly blaster: Not a fan of Sun Salutations? “Take an hour to do something nice for yourself,” which could help control your stress hormones, advises Sheila Dugan, MD, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist in Chicago.

Read more: Try This Flat-Belly Yoga Pose

Your meals are beige

Brightly colored fruits and veggies are loaded with vitamin C, which reduces cortisol. What’s more, a recent study in The Journal of Nutrition showed that people who ate more of the nutrients in red, orange, and yellow produce had smaller waists as a result.

Belly blaster: Add color to your plate by topping fish with a mango salsa, or throw diced red pepper into your turkey meatballs.

Your sweat sessions don’t involve sweat

Research has shown that high-intensity interval training, or HIIT—bursts of vigorous activity followed by short periods of gentle activity or rest—boasts belly-shrinking benefits. “High-intensity exercise seems to be more effective at reducing insulin, triglycerides, and cortisol, and it burns more calories in less time, too,” notes Shawn Talbot, PhD, a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine.

Belly blaster: If you enjoy biking or running, for example, accelerate to a pace that makes it hard to talk for two minutes; then slow down for a minute, and repeat until you’re done. Like resistance training? Try a series of moves like squats or push-ups for two minutes each with a 60-second break between them.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

Read next: What Diet Soda Does to Belly Fat

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6 Exercise Tweaks That Make a Big Difference

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For an optimum workout, give your body the variety it needs

We always hear that it’s necessary to keep “switching it up” when it comes to our workouts. While it’s true that constantly sending a shock to the body is essential in terms of becoming stronger and seeing results, these shocks don’t have to come in the form of changing your workout completely.

Making tiny tweaks to the same exercises you’re used to doing can create needed variety in your body without forcing you to give up the moves you already know and love.

Here are 6 tiny tweaks you can try adding in to your workout routine to achieve lasting results.

Challenge your balance

Adding an unstable surface to your move of choice is one of the most challenging variations you can do to an exercise. Plus, it recruits all those smaller muscles in addition to the larger ones so your body is working double time.

The exercise: BOSU burpee

Squat down and place your hands on the edges of a BOSU balance trainer and jump your feet back so that you land in a pushup position. Lower your chest to the ground, press back up to complete a push-up, and then jump your feet back toward your hands. Pick up the BOSU and press it overhead as you explosively jump up in the air, then squat back down and place it on the ground. That’s one rep. Try to do 3 sets of 15 reps.

Read more: 3 Ways to Do a Burpee

Change the position

When it seems like standard body weight exercises just aren’t cutting it anymore or you want to send a shock to the system, try changing the position of an exercise. Change your hand position or place your body on an incline or decline. Performing the same move in a different way can make it feel brand new again.

The exercise: Decline push-up

Find an elevated surface, like a park bench or plyometric box and place your feet on top. Kneel down and get into a plank position with your hands on the ground directly underneath your wrists and your feet elevated above your heart. Start to bend your elbows wide until your collarbone almost touch the ground, and then straighten your arms. Do 15 reps.

Read more: How to Do the Perfect Push-Up

Try one side at a time

The great thing about body weight exercises is that they’re easy to tweak and adjust in so many ways to make them harder. In this case, removing a leg or arm from the exercise is a surefire way to activate muscles in a new and fun way.

The exercise: Single-leg pelvic lift (shown here on a BOSU trainer)

Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place arms at your sides, palms face down. Extend one leg up toward the ceiling with foot flexed. Engage your glutes and lift the hips up as high as you can while keeping the upper back on the floor. Hold for 2 counts and then lower hips down. Complete 10 times, then switch legs and repeat.

Read more: Butt-Lifting Move: Hip Bridge

Add a pulse

Adding a pulse at the end of an exercise is the best way to activate the fast-twitch muscle fibers of the body. If you hadn’t already been feeling the burn, you’ll be feeling it now.

The exercise: Walking lunge with pulse

Step your left leg forward and lower your body into a lunge until both knees are bent at 90 degrees. Slowly pulse up and down by about an inch 10 times. Then, push through your left heel to return to standing; that’s one rep. Repeat with the right leg, and then do 3 more sets of 10 pulses on each leg.

Read more: Triceps Extension + Rhomboid Pulse

Hold the position

Most people are so quick to rush through each exercise because they want to get it over with or they’re trying to hit a certain amount of repetitions before they tire out. But instead of focusing on reps, how about focusing on length of time held in a position? One of the main benefits of isometric training is that the body is able to activate nearly all the available motor units—something that’s usually very difficult to do. This simple tweak can seem easy but become really challenging in a matter of seconds.

The exercise: Squat hold (or wall sit)

Although isometric moves can be done with equipment as well, here we are using body weight. The squat hold can be done as a wall sit or as a free-standing squat and hold. Place your feet hip-width apart. Sink down until your thighs are parallel to the ground, knees directly over your ankles. Make sure to sit back on your heels when you squat and don’t sink below 90 degrees with this move as this actually makes it easier. When your muscles start to burn or shake, try to hold for another minute (or as long as you can) before coming up.

Read more: 18 Moves to Tone Your Butt, Thighs, and Legs

Add a weight

It should come as no surprise that adding weight can make any exercise more difficult. But even a small 2- to 5-pound dumbbell can make a big difference when you’re switching it up from the norm.

The exercise: Side plank with weight

Lie on your right side with your forearm directly under your shoulder, hand perpendicular to your body, and legs stacked. Engage your abs and the right side of your waist, lifting your hips so your body forms a straight line from head to heels. Grab a small weight with your left hand and extend your arm toward the sky, staying engaged through your core. Then scoop your left arm under your torso, twisting only from the waist up. 

Come back up; repeat 8 times, then lower body to the ground. Repeat on the opposite side.

Read more: 20 Ways to Do a Plank

For more workout ideas, check out 5 Fitness Trends That Are Having A Moment.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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