Working out can be a time-consuming and potentially expensive affair -- especially if you join a gym and have to travel to get there. If that doesn't sound appealing, consider working out at home and performing body-weight exercises like squats, lunges, crunches and pushups. Of all the exercises you can do, though, pushups are one of the most effective. They are accessible, scalable to your fitness level and beneficial.
Upper Body Conditioning
The agonists, or prime movers in pushups are your pectoralis major, anterior deltoids and triceps. These muscles are located on your chest, front of your shoulders and back of your arms, respectively. Other upper body muscles are involved when you perform pushups, such as your serratus anterior, but these muscles are relatively small and considerably less important. Doing pushups on a regular basis will strengthen, tone and build these major muscles, which can make daily activities easier and improve sports performance.
When you perform pushups, your spine should remain neutrally curved and rigid so that any load is distributed safely through it. If your back should sag, your lumbar spine will become hyperextended, which can lead to injury. Keeping your spine properly aligned is the job of your core -- the muscles around your midsection. Although primarily considered an upper body exercise, pushups also strengthen your core muscles -- specifically your rectus abdominus and transversus abdominis.
Increased Bone Mass
Bone mass naturally declines with age after peaking during your mid to late 30s. If left unchecked, this bone loss can lead to osteoporosis, a medical condition characterized by weak bones that are prone to fracture. Performing weight-bearing exercises like pushups will strengthen your wrists, forearms, elbows, upper arms and shoulders. They will also help reduce bone loss and promote stronger, more dense bones.
Increased Metabolic Rate
Pushups use a large number of muscles at the same time; even your legs get in on the action. All of this muscular activity means that your heart must work hard to pump blood to your working muscles, which also causes your breathing rate to increase. Furthermore, a set of pushups will elevate your metabolic rate while you are doing them and as you recover afterward, all of which can help contribute to weight loss.