Short and intense workouts can have just the same benefit as constant visits to the gym.
Women struggle to find the right workout for them, but you don't have to be in the gym for an hour, three times a week, to see a notable difference. The latest research is pointing to short and intense workouts, such as a high-speed combination of weights, without resting. When done correctly, you really can elongate muscles with weight training. You're not going to make them bulky – think ballet dancer, not bodybuilder.
Sprinting is a great way to exercise. Base your workout on interval training, which is how a lot of professional athletes train. Do up to three minutes sprinting, then a minute of slow jogging, and no more than five repetitions. A 15-minute workout can have more impact on burning fat and activating muscle fibres than a gentle jog for 40 minutes.
Just a minute
If you like swimming or cycling, keep both activities short and intense, and do them three times a week. Within a few weeks, you'll start to notice changes. Even if you're short on time, for a minute, once a day, complete as many full squats as you can. Go right to the ground and stand up, then go back down again. You'll notice your strength and fitness improving even within four to five days. Your body can respond really quickly to intense exercise.
If you do a medium-to-high-intensity workout for 45 minutes or more, your body starts eating into your muscle tissue as a fuel source. It will cause you to lose the very active muscle tissue that will help you to lose fat in the first place. One pound of muscle can burn 50 to 100 calories a day when you're doing nothing, so it's useful to build it up.
What to eat
To get the best from high-intensity training, your diet needs to contain foods with a low-glycaemic index, as it is important to stabilise your sugar levels. Don't eat an hour before or after your workout, to avoid an insulin spike, which may prevent the release of fat-burning hormones. And, unlike longer sessions, where you need to drink water throughout, stop drinking 20 minutes before your workout. It only takes 20 minutes for your body to get hydrated.
Feel the burn
When you work out, concentrate on just two muscles in different parts of your body, such as your biceps and quadriceps, to exhaust the muscle fibres. You can focus on two other muscles the next time, allowing the areas you've already worked to recover. Go as heavy as you can under supervision in a gym. Otherwise, build up gradually. Do three sets of six repetitions. At the end of the first set, you should be struggling, so lighten the weight slightly and go straight into the next.
Sunday Indo Life Magazine