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Kick It Up With Cardio Exercise

Before you jump on that Stairmaster or start pounding the pavement, make sure you have a cardio exercise plan that will give you the most bang for your muscle burn.
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Getting Cut With Cardio

If you're looking for ripped abs and toned arms, interval training will help get you there -- especially if you throw in some weights.

"I love interval training because it consistently jump-starts your metabolism," says Austin. "Let's say you are walking -- you could power-walk really fast for three minutes to get the burst of calorie burn, and then walk calmly and slowly for one minute, which offers recovery. By switching back and forth, you push the muscle and let it relax over and over and this gives you maximum results." You can do interval training on any type of cardio exercise machine -- alternating a high intensity with a more moderate level.

Austin suggests doing weights during your recovery time, such as bicep curls or tricep toners, to reap the benefits of both cardio exercise and weight training, and along with interval training, add dedicated weight sessions to your regimen to burn fat and sculpt muscle at the same time.

"Do cardio four days a week for 30 minutes, and add a weight-training workout at least two times a week at 20-minute sessions," says Austin. "Cardio will burn the fat, and it's the weight training that gives you the toned sculpted look that will have you bikini ready."

Cardio's Best Fat Burner

So you want the bottom line: Which cardio exercise will fat-bust the best?

"Running is the best option for calorie burning, in my opinion," says Niki Kimbrough, personal fitness expert with Bally Total Fitness. "Whether it's outside or on a treadmill, it's the best exercise because you're burning calories and you're strengthening your legs and heart -- it'll get you nice and lean."

Beginners should start with 20 minutes, explains Kimbrough, and work their way up.

"It takes about 20 minutes for your body to get going, and then your body starts to kick it to another level," says Kimbrough. "Ideally, you want to run for about 30 or 45 minutes."

For those with bad knees, Kimbrough recommends the elliptical machine as a good second choice.

In case running isn't your game, Kravitz takes another track.

"I really feel the most important message is to chose a cardio modality or modalities that you like," says Kravitz. "Because in the final outcome, if a person enjoys a mode of exercise, that is what all research shows they will choose."

Splitting It Up

While it may not be the fastest way to a body built for the beach, splitting up your cardio exercise still has its benefits.

"In order to achieve the best results, and also in order to maintain a healthy heart, it is best to not split up your cardio workouts," says Austin. "You need the consistency of 20 minutes or more of an elevated pulse to ensure great results. However, something is better than nothing.  If all the time you have is 10 minutes or even five minutes, it is better than sitting still; you will still be garnished benefits and lose weight."

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