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1. Just press "intense." Don't have that much time to work out? "Try high-intensity aerobic exercise or resistance training [working at about an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10], which can help you burn an extra 50 to 150 calories during the first two hours after exercise," advises Len Kravitz, PhD, a professor of exercise physiology at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. For cardio, incorporate several speed intervals; for strength training, do circuits.
2. Follow the new guidelines. The latest word from the experts at the American College of Sports Medicine: For minimum health gains, do moderately intense cardio (hard enough to break a sweat) for at least 30 minutes, five days a week, plus total-body strength training twice weekly. Want to shed pounds? Bump the cardio to an hour.
3. Squeeze in a quickie workout. This total-body circuit-training routine from Joe Dowdell, co-owner of Peak Performance NYC, is perfect for days when you feel pressed for time. Do each exercise for about one minute; complete the circuit two or three times.
What to do to maximize your efforts when you want to...
4. Fend off gravity at 40+. After age 30, women lose about a quarter pound of muscle mass each year, says fitness expert Kathy Smith, creator of the Body Boomers Workout. "The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn 24/7," says Smith -- and the stronger your bones will be. Her basic plan: a challenging weight workout two or three days a week, plus a mix of low-impact cardio, such as walking with speed bursts, cycling, or swimming, at least three days a week for 30 to 45 minutes.
5. Drop a size, fast. Take a three-pronged approach, says trainer Alwyn Cosgrove, owner of Results Fitness in Santa Clarita, California. First, follow a daily diet low in refined carbs (white bread, pasta) but high in fruits and veggies, with moderate protein; aim for about 1,500 calories. Twice a week, do total-body strength workouts (go to fitnessmagazine.com for some ideas), reducing or eliminating rest time between sets. Finally, three days a week, do interval training (alternating four to seven high-intensity levels with moderate recovery periods). Stay the course and you should reach your goal in about four weeks.
6. Stop sucking it in. Eat right and work out to minimize flab after having a baby. If you've got post-pregnancy pooch, try this move from Tracey Mallett, creator of the 3-in-1 Pregnancy System DVD: Lie faceup on a towel placed horizontally on the floor, with knees bent and heels in line with glutes. Cross the towel over your midsection, holding each end. Lift head, neck, and shoulders off the floor as you exhale, drawing abs toward spine while pulling tightly on the towel. "In many women, the abdominal muscles actually separate from the added pressure of the baby, so the first thing you need to do is strengthen them until they join together," says Mallett. Do 10 reps a day.
Attack your problem areas with these tricks:
7. Beat cellulite with a roller. Some experts swear by rolling out -- using a foam roller that looks like a very wide pool noodle. The premise: When connective tissue becomes dehydrated, especially in the layers closest to the skin, the fibers weaken and separate, so the underlying fat pokes through. "Rolling rehydrates and firms up the connective tissue by moving fluids," says Sue Hitzmann, an exercise physiologist and manual therapist in New York City. "It won't make you thinner, but if you have lumpy thighs, it helps." Buy a roller for $30 at meltmethod.com.
8. Bust your gut on a ball. "Exercising on a stability ball forces you to engage all of your abdominal and lower-back muscles," explains Sue Fleming, fitness expert and author of Fashionably Buff. One of our fave moves: plank pose on the ball. Begin in a plank position -- palms on floor directly below shoulders, back straight, abs engaged, body parallel with floor, legs extended with feet on ball. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, keeping abs tight; relax.
9. Be an expert strength trainer. Slow down and hold the exercise for one count at the peak point of contraction. "Most people move too quickly, so they end up using momentum more than muscle, which compromises performance and can lead to injury," says Los Angeles-based trainer Christel Smith. "Pause for a second, contract the muscle, then slowly lower the weight."
10. Move through soreness. Unless it's severe, stretch or walk often when you're in the midst of post-exercise aches and pains. "The worst thing you can do when you're sore is be a slug and lie on the couch," says Brad Schoenfeld, author of Sculpting Her Body Perfect. The more active you are, the more nutrients your blood delivers to your muscles, promoting a faster recovery. One DVD that does the job (and still keeps you close to the sofa): Living Room Yoga, by Eva Barash.
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, October 2007.