8 Easy Fitness Trade-Ups That Boost Results

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Discover the best exercises and tools to lose weight, lower your injury risk and more!

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Ditch and Switch

You’ve found an exercise plan that works for you (no small feat!), so why change it? Over time, your body adapts to the same routine, decreasing your calorie burn as your muscles get better at doing those same moves over and over. Instead of plateauing, try these simple upgrades to kick things up a notch—and keep getting results.

Instead of: a pedometer
Try: a heart rate monitor

While a pedometer tells you how many steps you take, “if you want to burn more fat, you need to measure intensity,” says Guy Andrews, executive director of Exercise ETC, Inc., a fitness education provider in Fort Lauderdale, FL. And a heart rate monitor does just that. Strap one on and do your favorite cardio routine at a pace that causes breathlessness in two to three minutes. When it becomes difficult to speak, check your heart rate. “This is where you want to spend as much time as possible during exercise,” says Andrews.

Instead of: hula-hooping
Try: Zumba

Both hula hooping and Zumba use similar hip and core movements, but Zumba burns many more calories, says Jessica Matthews, an exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise (ACE). “Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse concluded that Zumba not only improves cardiorespiratory fitness but also body composition,” which reduces body fat. Specifically, that study showed that Zumba burns an average of 475 calories in 50 minutes while hula-hooping burns 350 calories in that same time. Achieve your weight-loss goals more quickly by swapping out hooping for Zumba classes three times a week.

Instead of: an elliptical
Try: a treadmill

You may feel you’re burning more calories on the elliptical, but the treadmill offers bone-building benefits. “Every footstep you take creates an impact, which travels up your leg. Your hip absorbs it and becomes stronger and denser,” says Andrews. Because your feet remain in contact with the elliptical, you don’t get that impact. Besides, the calorie burn you get from a treadmill can equal what ellipticals offer: In a half-hour, expect to burn 215 calories at a moderate pace on an elliptical versus between 179 and 226 calories at 4 mph on a treadmill. Just check with your doctor before switching if you have osteoporosis. Otherwise, start slowly and gradually increase your speed and duration.

Instead of: group training
Try: one-on-one training

Many exercise classes try to accommodate every fitness level, from beginner to advanced. Problem is, one size doesn’t fit all. “If you’re not seeing desired results from group classes, consider working with a personal trainer,” suggests Andrews. He or she assesses you and formulates a plan specific to your needs and history, coaching you in person along the way. If you’re self-motivated, a fitness coach, who doesn’t meet with you one-on-one like a personal trainer does, but advises you online, is a less expensive option for customized help.
Instead of: weight training
Try: plyometric training
Adding air to a traditional exercise turns it into a plyometric one—and takes results to the next level. Plyometrics, which run the gamut from jumping rope and jumping jacks to more advanced moves like jump squats, “increase leg strength, balance, acceleration and agility,” says Matthews. To avoid injury, though, land softly on the midfoot then roll forward to push off the ball of the foot, instead of landing on your heels or the balls of your feet. Add jumps as part of an interval approach to resistance training or at the beginning of a workout, recommends Matthews.
Instead of: squats
Try: walking lunges
“Walking lunges work the same muscles as the squat (mainly glutes and quadriceps/legs), but with the added benefit of core strengthening,” says Andrews. Bonus: Since you’re moving while carrying weight, the exercise becomes cardio, which burns more calories. And because walking lunges are an exaggerated walk, more like an actual move you’d do in real life, it’s less stress on the knees than a stand-in-place squat, says Andrews. Each right and left step forward counts as one rep; substitute for the same number of squats.
Instead of: long, slow cardio
Try: interval training
You don’t have to spend hours on a treadmill to burn a lot of calories. A shorter workout including intervals (switching between high and low exercise bouts) gets the same results faster. “Numerous studies show that interval training is effective for enhancing weight loss in a short amount of time,” says Matthews. This can be as simple as alternating walking for two minutes with jogging for one minute, says Matthews. Or jog for 30 seconds and walk briskly for one minute. “The exact work-to-rest ratio can vary, so play around to decide what works best for you,” says Matthews.
Instead of: exercise machines
Try: free weights
Exercise machines work well when you’re starting out, but free weights use your entire body, says Neal I. Pire, founder of PUSH at Volt Fitness, in Glen Rock, NJ. “A machine stabilizes you, whereas free weights make you do the stabilizing. More muscle mass works each rep of every exercise, resulting in a more functional body.” And that reduces your injury risk from everyday activities. Plus, free weights burn more calories—both during and after your workout. “More calories burned and multiple muscle groups contracting produces a leaner physique,” says Pire.
Written by Linda Melone, Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)
Originally published on Womansday.com

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