8 Ways to Burn More Fat, Faster
Rules 5-8Rule #5: Take a power walk to beat a midday slump.
Call it the 20-20 rule: As little as 20 minutes of low-intensity aerobic activity such as walking can give you a 20 percent surge in energy, research at the University of Georgia in Athens finds. "It's paradoxical: Many people assume that they'll get tired from exercise. But the opposite actually happens," says study author Patrick O'Connor, PhD, a professor of kinesiology. "We're not certain what the biological mechanism is," he says, "but indirect evidence suggests that brain chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin are altered and cause the improved energy." Besides, that quick recharge just burned about 75 calories. Sure beats adding 250 spike-then-slump calories' worth of Skittles.Rule #6: Do the two-step.
When you opt for the stairs, go at them two at a time -- as long as you're not wearing heels. The quick bursts of power activate your legs' fast-twitch muscle fibers, which burn more calories than slow-twitch fibers. Plus, you'll be using a part of your muscles that commonly doesn't get enough action. "Fast muscle cells are designed so you can jump far, kick hard, punch fast -- moves that you call on less and less in modern society," says Scott Mazzetti, PhD, a professor of exercise science at Salisbury University in Maryland. "But unfortunately it's a use-them-or-lose-them situation, so it's good to activate them regularly."Rule #7: Go like Gumby.
Consistent stretching significantly decreases muscle soreness, according to a study at the Norwegian Knowledge Centre for Health Services in Oslo. Skipped your stretches postexercise? Wind down with this 17-minute allover loosener from Jennifer Huberty, PhD, an exercise physiologist at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
- Warm up first with 5 minutes of brisk high-knee marching.
- Toe-reach stretch (targets hamstrings, which remain shortened all day as you're seated): Sit on the floor with your left leg straight in front of you, knee slightly bent, right leg bent out to the side and resting on the floor. Reach for your toes without bouncing and hold for 30 seconds; relax. Do 3 stretches, then switch legs and repeat.
- Hip-flexor stretch (targets hips, which also are tight in desk jockeys): Lie faceup on the floor with your left leg bent, left foot flat, and bend your right knee out to the side so your right ankle is crossed over and resting on the lower left thigh. Grasp your left thigh with both hands and pull it toward you until you feel a comfortable stretch in your right hip, glutes, and outer thigh. Hold for 30 seconds; switch legs and repeat. Do 3 stretches per side.
- Side stretch (targets upper back and waistline): Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Raise arms overhead and interlock fingers with palms facing up. Keeping your middle centered, hinge at the waist to the right; hold for 30 seconds. Return to center and reach up; hold for 30 seconds.
- Switch sides; repeat. Do 3 stretches on each side.
A recent FITNESS poll found that sneakers -- with sports bras being a close second -- are the piece of gear that is forgotten most often, foiling women's workout plans. Clear that obstacle by, well, making them an obstacle in front of the door you exit in the a.m., suggests Diane Klein, PhD, chair of exercise and sports sciences at Tennessee Wesleyan College in Athens. "Seeing them will remind you that you planned to exercise," Klein says. For motivation to move, kicks are worth a thousand words.
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, November/December 2009.
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