No one (that we personally know of, and that’s never been on the Jersey Shore) has ever wished they could spend more time in the gym. But wishing that you could cut down on your workout time and burn just as many—if not more—calories? That’s a wish we know all too well. And (joy of joys) we’ve figured out how to make it come true. With a few tweaks and simple tricks, you can burn more calories while exercising less.
Scroll through to find out how it’s done!
Most cardio machines (like the stationary bike or treadmill) target your lower body, but if you incorporate your upper body too, you’ll burn more calories. The easiest way to include your upper body is to let go of the handles and pump your arms. By moving both your arms and legs together, you’ll raise your heart rate even more without adding time to your workout.
Group exercise is known to increase people’s motivation so you push yourself (an torch more calories), but even if you’re not a group fitness class kind of girl, you can still reap the benefits. Pick a treadmill next to the fastest runner in the gym, and your calorie expenditure could almost double, according to a study from Michigan State University, which found having any kind of partner made women to work out twice as hard
Aerobic exercise and strength training are both key parts of the fitness equation, so why not combine them? Adding weight builds your muscle mass, and since muscle tissue burns more calories than body fat, it’s a win-win. Try wearing light ankle weights during your next cardio session. Your largest muscles are in your legs, so by adding weight there, you’ll reach the highest calorie burn. Or just increasing the incline on your treadmill counts as calorie-burning resistance.
Alternating periods of high-intensity and low-intensity activity is a surefire way to increase your calorie burn. Adding short bursts of all-out effort allows you to burn the same number of calories in about the half the time of exercising at a steady pace. An Australian study found that women who alternated eight seconds of high-intensity exercise with 12 seconds of low-intensity activity for 20 minutes burned more fat (and slimmed down faster) than those who exercised at one pace for twice as long.
Already interval training like a pro? Take it a step further with plyometrics. Work a few explosive, high-impact moves (like jumping and hopping) into your cardio routine and watch your heart rate rise. Bumping up the intensity with total-body moves (think burpees) challenges your muscles and increases your overall calorie burn.
It may not be an option for you year-round, but when you can, taking your workouts outdoors gives your calorie expenditure a boost. Varied terrain and that little bit of wind resistance help you burn more calories without adding any time to your workout.
This worst thing you can do for your calorie expenditure is let your cardio routine venture into a rut. It only takes a few weeks for a fit body to adapt to an exercise and become more efficient. And the more efficient your body is, the fewer calories it burns. Instead, aim to create muscle confusion. Change up your incline, your intensity, your resistance—anything that will keep your muscles guessing so they’ll have to work harder.
What’s your go-to cardio workout right now? Tell us below!