Interval training sounds complicated and intimidating, right? But studies show that this type of exercise is the most efficient way to burn fat and build muscle in the shortest time possible. And it’s not very complicated either; it simply means that you change speeds throughout your workout rather than going full force the entire time or just plodding along at a lower intensity. Not only is this the best way to burn fat, but it’s also the most exciting—you push yourself, then you get a chance to recover and catch your breath after such an intense effort (it’ll also make the time fly).
Here are 10 simple interval workouts that can get you started losing serious weight, without ever feeling exhausted or bored.
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Find a decent-size hill. Begin by walking up it, then back down. Exertion going up, recovery coming back down. Do that for a couple of weeks, adding repetitions of going up and down as it gets easier, and soon you'll be ready to speedwalk or even jog up part of it. Continue that for a few more weeks, and you'll soon find that you can run or speedwalk all the way up before walking back down.
Try one of these treadmill workouts on rainy days
The telephone-pole game
You can do this one whether you're a walker, a runner, or a cyclist. When you start out, pick a geographical feature you'll see plenty of during your workout—telephone poles work well, as do fire hydrants, mailboxes, etc.—and alternate speeding up and slowing down each time you see one.
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Practically any team sport
If you're up to it, soccer, basketball, bowling, touch football, hockey, ultimate Frisbee, and even cartless golf (swing; walk; swing; walk some more; swing, swing, swing, curse, fling club, walk to retrieve club) will vary your exertion level and give you the interval benefit.
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We already know about the slowed-down part: any time your butt is in your office chair. But you really need to be crafty about finding ways to escape your desk and stride through the workplace. Look for opportunities to stand up, move around, go for a walk, and visit colleagues. Bonus: Create a work area where you can stand and spend part of the day standing. While it’s not quite the same as running or walking, standing instead of sitting can burn about 30 more calories an hour.
During all the commercial breaks in primetime, commit to standing, or doing simple dumbbell curls, or circling the house once, or dropping for a set of push-ups or crunches. You'll get in 20 minutes of workouts during the time you'd otherwise be watching commercials for foods and restaurants. Activity is the best revenge against marketing.
Try these commercial-break exercises for couch potatoes.
Park far from the entrance and commit to shopping for at least an hour. If you become overburdened with purchases (and you can always browse without opening your wallet, too), walk them back to the car, then resume shopping. Walk right past the temptation of the soda and pretzel stands and pop a handful of the nuts you brought along.
Every region of the country has spectacular state parks that are woefully underutilized. Let's solve that problem by packing up food and finding wonderful places to eat it, like down the 1-mile trail to the river, the picnic table by the lake, or the top of the cliff overlooking the valley. You'll exercise on your way to dinner, you'll eat foods you prepared yourself, and you'll focus on what you're eating instead of noshing mindlessly in front of the TV—three great new weight-loss advantages.
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Community service is an exercise program. During a park cleanup, you're engaging in varied activities while mingling with the right sorts of people—ones who care about your community. Join in with their most active programs, and they will crowd out unproductive time you might lose to sedentary activities.
Canoeing. Kayaking. Row-row-rowing your boat gently down the stream. All of these self-propelled water sports require varied amounts of effort, and they also give you a new viewpoint. Off-road is the place where you engage your muscles and burn calories and also gain new perspectives that are only available by leaving the blacktop.
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Any self-propelled activity
If you can just find ways to step out from behind the wheel or stand up from the chair, the world instantly changes. You're relying on your own muscular and energy systems to propel you through the landscape, and the view changes. You're self-reliant, you can move at your own preferred speed, and you can vary it to lend an extra calorie burn to things you're doing for enjoyment.
Excerpted from The Lean Belly Prescription by Travis Stork, MD, and Peter Moore, editor of Men’s Health