No one wants to waste time when they’re trying to reach a weight-loss goal. So what’s the most effective use of your workout time when trying to lose weight? Answer: Activities that maximize calorie burn. These workouts will help you burn calories fast, despite your fitness and strength levels. From low-intensity sports to high-intensity exercises to strength training, we have ideas you can easily incorporate even if you're on a busy schedule.
The ultimate low-impact, calorie burner, swimming engages all your major muscle groups making it a great way to burn fat (think 400 to 700 calories per hour) and tone muscles at the same time. Not the best swimmer when it comes to strokes and technique? Research shows that as long you can propel yourself through the water to get to one end of the pool and back, then you’ve mastered the sport well enough to burn calories.
If you don’t have an extended block of time in which to exercise, try incorporating two to four 10-minute bursts of moderate- to high-intensity exercise. Research shows these that these short intervals are just as beneficial for your health as exercising longer at one time, because you burn calories both during and after these intensive bursts. Vary your activity based on your schedule by jogging when you walk the dog in the morning, power walking during lunch, and then dancing with your kids before bed.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is all the rage and the premise behind many boot camp and CrossFit-type workouts. HIIT workouts combine intense short bursts of exercise (think sprints) followed by a repeated series of lower-intensity exercises that are usually strength-based. Although only 20 to 30 minutes total, the constant up and down in intensity sizzles calories and also causes dramatic improvements in your cardiovascular fitness compared to longer workouts where the intensity doesn’t vary.
While the long-term metabolism benefits are great, strength and toning exercises don’t burn loads of calories when you’re actually doing them unless they involve the whole body and increase your heart rate. The only effective way to speed up your metabolism is to build muscle. Check out the class listing at your local fitness center to see if they offer full body strength or weight classes, or look for online videos for exercises you can do at home. This type of workout will burn calories now and keep your metabolism revved up later.
If you hate exercise but love friendly competition, then tennis may be the calorie torcher for you. This sport keeps you continuously running, as well as engaging muscles when you serve or hit the ball. Another plus (in addition to the possible 500 to 600 calories you can burn per hour): Research shows tennis has positive effects on brain function and memory since you’re literally thinking on your feet.
Tired of your monotonous walking or running routine? Next time you’re on the treadmill, look at incorporating circuits that continuously change up the speed and incline every one to three minutes. Alternate intervals with one that challenges and pushes you out of your comfort zone followed by one that allows you to recover. Search treadmill circuits or treadmill intervals for examples to get started.
Stationary cycling may sound intimidating if you’re not a bike rider, but it takes much less skill and coordination than other group fitness classes. Each rider continuously changes speed and pedal resistance, so all fitness levels can participate. In each 45-minutes class, you burn 400 to 600 calories and get a high-intensity, low-impact cardio workout as well as lower body muscle work.