When you're working out several times a week to get fit and lose weight, you want a routine that offers maximum results in the minimum amount of time. Exercise scientists have been hard at work on this particular issue, and now years of research indicates that the following 8 moves—done properly—are all you need to achieve the slim, taut body you're after.
The American College of Sports Medicine reports that you can elevate your metabolism for up to 24 hours post-exercise by adding just one little twist to your exercise routine: intervals. All you have to do is inject brief periods of intense effort into your regular walks (or runs, swims, bicycling, elliptical sessions, etc). The intensity effectively resets your metabolism to a slightly higher rate during your workout, and it takes hours for it to slow down again. That equals ongoing calorie burn long after you've showered and toweled off.
If you're a walker and you typically exercise for 30 minutes, try adding a burst of jogging for 30 seconds every 5 minutes. As you become more fit, you can increase the interval length to a minute, and decrease the walking segments to 4 minutes. For the biggest metabolism boost, you'll want to make sure that the interval portion leaves you breathing hard.
While your heart and other organs demand fuel around the clock, there's little you can do to increase their metabolic needs. However, your muscles—which also require constant feeding—are changeable. Make them bigger, and they will demand more calories day and night. With the following essential moves, adapted from findings by the American College of Sports Medicine, you can target all the major muscle groups in your body. (Here are the 10 best strength-training moves for women over 50.) You should be able to get through the entire routine in less than 30 minutes. Do this 2 to 3 times a week and your muscles will turn into furnaces that burn up extra calories before your body can convert them to fat.