Experts say there is no magic to exercise: You get out of it what
you put in. That doesn't mean you have to work out for hours each day. It just
means you need to work smart.
That said, experts agree that not all exercises are
created equal. Some are simply more efficient than others, whether they target
multiple muscle groups, are suitable for a wide variety of fitness levels, or
help you burn calories more effectively.
So what are the best exercises? We posed this question
to four fitness experts and compiled a list of their favorites.
Any exercise program should include
cardiovascular exercise, which strengthens the heart and burns calories. And walking is something you can do
anywhere, anytime, with no equipment other than a good pair of
It's not just for beginners, either: Even the very fit
can get a good workout from walking.
"Doing a brisk walk can burn up to 500 calories per
hour," says Robert Gotlin, DO, director of orthopaedic and sports
rehabilitation at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. Since it takes 3,500
calories to lose a pound, you could expect to lose a pound for every seven
hours you walk, if you did nothing else.
Don't go from the sofa to walking an hour day, though.
Richard Cotton, a spokesman for the American Council on Exercise, says
beginners should start by walking five to -10 minutes at a time, gradually
moving up to at least 30 minutes per session.
"Don't add more than five minutes at a time," he says.
Another tip: It's better to lengthen your walks before boosting your speed or
2. Interval training
Whether you're a beginner or an exercise veteran, a
walker or an aerobic dancer, adding interval training to your cardiovascular
workout will boost your fitness level and help you lose weight.
"Varying your pace throughout the exercise session
stimulates the aerobic system to adapt," says Cotton. "The more power the
aerobic system has, the more capacity you have to burn calories."
The way to do it is to push the intensity or pace for a
minute or two, then back off for anywhere from two to -10 minutes (depending on
how long your total workout will be, and how much time you need to recover).
Continue doing this throughout the workout.
training is essential, the experts say. "The more muscular fitness you
have," says Cotton, "the greater the capacity you have to burn calories."
And our experts tended to favor strength-training
exercises that target multiple muscle groups. Squats, which work the
quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteals, are an excellent example.
"They give you the best bang for the buck because they
use the most muscle groups at once," says Oldsmar, Fla., trainer David
Petersen. Form is key, though, warns Petersen.