Get Fitter, Firmer, Faster! 18 Fitness Shortcuts
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Fitness

Get Fitter, Firmer, Faster! 18 Fitness Shortcuts

Follow our sneaky but foolproof shortcuts to whip your body and motivation into shape.

6 Quick Weight-Loss Tips

Use these secrets to peel off pounds.

Fire up your metabolism with intervals.

One study found that doing 10 four-minute speed bursts with two minutes of slow walking or cycling after each (60 minutes total) three times a week upped the body's ability to use fat as fuel during exercise by 25 percent after six weeks. "Shoot for an eight or nine on an intensity scale of one to 10, where 10 is an all-out sprint," says lead researcher Christopher Perry, PhD, an exercise physiologist at the University of Guelph in Canada.

Jot down meals and moves.

People who used an online weight-control program were most likely to lose pounds when they regularly recorded their weight loss, calories consumed, and activity, a study at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock revealed.

 
Sleep off the flab.

Getting between six and eight hours of shut-eye a night helped dieters shed more weight in a recent study from Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon. "Plus, consistently increasing your sleep, even if by only 30 minutes a night, and sticking to regular bed- and wake-up times can provide you a boost in alertness and help prepare you for your workout," says Cheri D. Mah, sleep expert at the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory.

Bypass the fat-burning zone.

Forget this so-called sweet spot, when you go slow in order to sizzle a higher percentage of calories from fat: Burning more total calories at the highest intensity that you can sustain means you'll also burn more fat overall. For a measure of which zone you're in, strap on a heart rate monitor. Walk or jog lightly (the half-effort pace dubbed the fat-burning zone), noting the number of beats per minute (bpm) on its display. "That's the number to reach on an easy day," says John Porcari, PhD, FITNESS advisory board member and program director in the clinical exercise physiology department at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Then power walk or run at your usual pace and see what your heart rate is; this is your moderate-intensity target, which is your best bet for getting a longer workout with a bigger calorie burn. Add some short, fast intervals toward the end and note the bpm to mark your high-intensity zone for when you want to push it.

Crack an egg for breakfast.

Go for a little extra protein first thing in the day and your brain will stave off the munchies later on, according to the latest findings from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Former breakfast skippers who ate a morning meal with a side of yogurt showed fewer feed-me brain impulses and felt fuller.

Incinerate more calories per step.

Burn 15 percent more calories (about 40 calories more per hour) by adding a slight incline (around 6 percent) to your normally flat 3.5-mile-per-hour walk, advises Mark Fenton, author of The Complete Guide to Walking for Health, Weight Loss, and Fitness. The steeper the hike, the bigger the spike in calories blasted at any speed.

Untitled Document

Incline

Speed

Calorie-Burn Spike

10%

3 mph

50%

15%

2.5 mph

75%

6 Fast Fitness and Workout Tips

Tone up in no time, from your ticker to your tush, with these easy tweaks.

Sculpt sexier limbs in one blow.

Breathing out as you lift those dumbbells may make you firmer, according to new research from the University of Montana in Missoula. Exercisers in the study who exhaled on the effort rather than inhaling or breathing normally lifted significantly more weight during triceps extensions, hamstring curls, and chest flyes. Contracting your ab muscles as you exhale can shore up your core to help you hoist extra weight in a standing position, according to study coauthor Sheng Li, PhD.

Get more go with a cup of joe.

You've heard that coffee can kick-start your workout, but how much does it take to net the effect? According to recent studies from the Australian Institute of Sport, even small amounts of caffeine -- 1.4 milligrams per pound of body weight, or about two cups of coffee a day for the average 140-pound woman -- can help boost speed during cardio, like cycling and swimming. For the best pick-me-up, take your daily dose shortly before you hit the gym or when you start to flag.

Switch up your workouts for max results.

Attention, runners and fans of other high-impact cardio classes: Build in 30 minutes of full-body strength training followed by 20 to 30 minutes of walking or low-impact cardio twice a week to ease up on your muscles and joints, recommends FITNESS advisory board member Marty Jaramillo, sports physical therapist and founder of ICE Sports Therapy in New York City. (Female soccer players who added stretching, strength training, and other exercises to their training had fewer injuries than those who did not, a study in the British Medical Journal found.) "Make your effort the exact opposite of the previous day's," Jaramillo says. "If you go hard on your run, go easy on the strength training and vice versa."

Tighten your abs with balancing tricks.

Exercising on wobbly surfaces forces you to engage your core more, flattening your belly. Do your biceps curls standing on one leg on a Bosu ball or this pike move with a stability ball: Start on the floor in full push-up position with shins on top of ball. Contract your abs and lift your hips to slowly roll the ball forward, keeping your legs straight (end with ankles on ball), to form an inverted V; roll back to start. Do two sets of 20 reps.

Squeeze more sculpting out of each rep.

Rather than do three fast sets of one strength-training move, do one set of 10 controlled reps in 60 seconds, says Wayne Westcott, PhD, fitness research director for the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, Massachusetts. "Not only do you save the time you would have used to rest between sets," he says, "but because you're no longer relying on momentum, you're also guaranteed to work the targeted muscles more and maintain good form."

6 Tips to Get More Motivated

Rev up your mojo in mere seconds.

Move to improve your 'tude.

Sneak in a morning sweat session and you'll experience the exercise high all day: Research from the University of Vermont in Burlington shows that doing just 20 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise -- brisk walking or easy-paced cycling, for example -- gives you a feel-good mood recharge that lasts up to 12 hours.

 
Turn your playlist into a pace maker.

Download the free BeatScanner tool at bestworkoutmusic.com to have it pull the tunes from your playlists that match your tempo, or try the site's Workout Music Studio ($27) to alter the beat of your faves to suit your pace. Result? A never-ending supply of music to help you roll through every workout. And if your tunes could use a refresh, try these bumping hits:

"Don't Stop the Party" - The Black Eyed Peas

Don't Stop the Party - The Beginning (Deluxe Version)

"Till the World Ends" - Britney Spears

Till the World Ends - Femme Fatale (Deluxe Version)

"Where Them Girls At" - David Guetta, featuring Nicki Minaj and Flo Rida

Where Them Girls At (feat. Nicki Minaj & Flo Rida) - Where Them Girls At (feat. Nicki Minaj & Flo Rida) - Single

"Save the World" - Swedish House Mafia

Save the World (Radio Mix) - Save the World - Single

"Dirty Dancer" - Enrique Iglesias with Usher, featuring Lil Wayne

Dirty Dancer (feat. Usher) - Euphoria

See green to enjoy your routine.

A Swiss study of 319 city dwellers determined that they found outdoor workouts more restorative than indoor ones. Find a walking or jogging route on mapmyrun.com or a nearby bike path at mapmyride.com.

Chill out to firm up.

Take five at the water fountain to clear your head before you rep: Less-stressed exercisers who lifted weights increased their strength gains by up to 25 percent compared with tenser folks, according to a study at the University of Texas at Austin.

Have a great flex.

A post-workout cooldown can leave exercisers with a that-wasn't-so-tough impression of their last sweat session -- a better mind-set for getting back to the gym the next day. Perform a few soothing stretches before you head for the shower, holding each 20 to 30 seconds.

 
Divide and conquer any distance.

Imagine mini finish lines along your jogging loop to rejuice your stride and make the time fly. For instance, think in five-mile increments when you tackle double-digit distances, top U.S. marathoner Kara Goucher says. "If I start to get tired, I visualize myself crossing the finish line, which helps me dig a little deeper."

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, September 2011.

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