As You Work Out…
Your lungs are getting stronger. When you do cardio, your brain sends signals to them to help you breathe faster and deeper, delivering extra oxygen to your muscles.
Your motivation is at its peak. Thanks to a flood of endorphins, which trigger the classic runner’s high, you feel psyched and energized.
You’re fighting flab. During typical cardio exercise, your body taps mainly fat for fuel.
FIT TIP: Push yourself to go harder. The more intensely you do aerobic activity and the longer you do it, the more efficiently your body uses oxygen, and this boosts its fat-blasting power throughout your workout.
Within One Hour of Exercise…
You’re protecting yourself against colds, flu, you name it. Exercise elevates your level of immunoglobulins, which are proteins that help bolster your immune system and ward off infection. “Every sweat session you do can help strengthen your immune function for about 24 hours,” says Cedric Bryant, PhD, chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise.
You’re feeling zen. Mood-enhancing chemicals, like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, flood your brain for a couple of hours post-exercise and for up to a day if you’ve competed in an endurance event, like a marathon. Stress? What stress?
You’re blasting calories, even at rest. For every 100 calories, you burn during your workout, you can expect to burn 15 calories after.
FIT TIP: To turbo-charge your calorie-incinerating quotient, strength-train at least twice a week. It will charge your metabolism so that you’ll continue to burn calories for up to 38 hours, according to a study from Ohio University in Athens.
Within One Day of Exercise…
You’re adding lean muscle. If you did a strength-training routine, your muscles are now starting to rebuild themselves and repair the microscopic tears that come with lifting weights. Preliminary research shows that women respond to and recover from resistance training faster than men.
Your heart is healthier. One sweat session lowers your blood pressure for up to 16 hours.
FIT TIP: A vigorous workout is especially heart smart.
You’re a quick study. You’re super alert and focused post-exercise. That’s because a good workout increases the flow of blood and oxygen to your brain.
Within One Week of Regular Exercise…
Your risk of diabetes goes down. The more you work out, the greater your sensitivity to insulin. That, in turn, lowers your blood sugar levels, reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes.
Your VO2 max, a measure of your endurance and aerobic fitness, has already increased by about 5 percent. You can go a little harder and longer than you could before.
FIT TIP: Step up your routine and your results will be even better. Plus, you can burn more belly fat by doing intervals rather than keeping a steady pace.
You’re slimmer. Cutting 500 calories a day through exercise and diet will help you drop one pound a week.
Long-Term Benefits of Exercise
You’re getting stronger. Those fifteen-pound weights don’t feel quite as heavy, because your muscular endurance is starting to increase. Ten reps is no longer a struggle.
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, butt slightly raised, hold for 30 seconds; do 10 reps three or four times a week.
You’ve got more brainpower. Working out activates growth-stimulating proteins in the brain that may help form new cells there.
FIT TIP: The more challenging your workout, the stronger your mental muscle. Aim for 30 minutes of vigorous cardio at least three days a week.
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. That means you’re zapping more flab 24-7.
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!