Ask the Personal Trainer: Maximum Results, Minimum Effort

Get more from your workout — and burn more calories — when time is tight

Q: What's the best way to burn calories?

A: The best calorie-burning exercise is the one you enjoy doing on a regular basis. You can maximize your fitness time, though. Here's how:

Recruit more muscle
The more muscle you put to work, the more calories you'll burn. Your biggest muscles are in your lower body. Choose from a variety of activities that use the back, hips and legs — walking, jogging, cycling or the elliptical trainer, for example. Stoke the furnace even more by adding in your arms, back and chest muscles — rowing, swimming and cross-country skiing do that.

Work hard enough
Effort also enters into the equation. The same way your car burns more fuel at higher speeds, your body burns more overall calories the harder and longer you exercise. Choose a "moderate" to "somewhat difficult" effort level. This would translate to a workload in which you can still have a conversation with the person next to you, your breathing is mildly labored, but you are not short of breath.

Make it last
Whatever exercise you choose, always start off slowly and ease into your routine. Doing too much too soon is the perfect prescription for early burnout. When you quit, you don't burn any calories at all.

Amp up
Small, incremental changes in intensity over time add up to big changes on the scoreboard of activity PointsPlus® values. As your fitness level improves, you'll be able to tolerate higher exercise intensities and durations with greater perceived ease. Gradually increase your speed, grade or resistance when you are able.

In this Q&A series, William Sukala, MS, CSCS, answers questions about fitness and exercise. Read more articles from our personal trainer.

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