9 surprising fitness tips

Try these expert tips to rejuvenate your exercise routine and keep your body healthy and strong

By Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

9 surprising fitness tips

1. Go barefoot for whole-body health

If you refuse to wear shoes in the summer, you may enjoy better blood circulation, a happier mood, stronger bones and better posture. According to Barefoot in Toronto, a group that promotes a barefoot lifestyle, barefoot walking increases skin health, reduces foot calluses, builds arch strength and enhances sensory stimulation. Going barefoot also creates healthier toenails and reduces foot odour.

2. To burn fat, don’t sweat it

Sweat signals a rising body temperature, not necessarily an increased calorie burn (although most of us will sweat as we work harder). “In the sauna you’ll sweat buckets but you aren’t burning fat,” says Brad Schoenfeld, author of 28 Day Body Shapeover. “The best indicator of calorie burn is either heart rate or a rating of perceived exertion (RPE).” RPE is a self-report scale that ranges from 1 (complete rest) to 10 (maximum effort). High intensity equals increased heart rate, which equals more fat burn.

3. Yell to increase fitness levels and self-confidence

IntenSati is “active meditation”—a fitness program that uses the voice and mind to intensify physical workouts. Participants say or shout empowering affirmations while kicking, jumping or lunging. For example, while punching, they yell, “I. Am. Strong. Now!” These motivational phrases boost confidence and distract participants from feeling fatigued, which increases the workout benefits. If you can't join the program, you may want to try this one in the privacy of your home gym.

4. Choose interval training for best results

“You can do too much cardio,” says fitness lifestylist Susie Shina, author of 60 Second Circuits: 1000 Ways to Get Your Body Back. “To burn fat effectively, one-minute sprint/recover repeats (interval training) on any cardio machine for a total of 20 minutes can be more beneficial than exercising at a steady rate." Or tackle your intervals outside by walking, running, biking or skipping.

5. Bond to increase motivation and focus

“It’s not necessarily resistance training, cardio or core work that keeps you fit,” says Florida-based John Kent, owner of Adventure Boot Camp for Women. “It’s meeting with others.” Healthy bonding moments—such as running hills or attending Pilates classes in a group setting—keep you motivated and focused on your fitness goals. (Learn about how one reader found motivation in a cycling fundraiser, and in group spin classes.)

6. Take celebrity fitness advice with a grain of salt

“Don't believe everything you read about how the stars stay fit," says Los Angeles-based fitness instructor Torri Shack. "Many celebrities work out four to six days a week for up to 90 minutes each time, have professional trainers and eat a clean, very calorie-restrictive diet. They don’t ‘just’ do Pilates or yoga twice a week.” When you compare yourself to a svelte movie star, remember that it’s her job to stay beautiful.

7. In a time crunch? Get a better workout!

“People are surprised at how little exercise they need to get and stay fit,” says personal trainer Keith Morton, founder of CityWide SuperSlow in Chicago. “It’s the quality, not quantity, of exercise that counts.” Mississauga-based fitness trainer Marc Lebert adds that his best workouts occur when he’s pushed for time. “If I give myself 20 minutes to work my legs, I know I have to increase my intensity,” he says. “A time limit makes every set count.”

8. Food packs more punch than exercise

“When it comes to changing the size and shape of your body, exercise is only 30 percent of it,” says Ariane Hundt, a New York City-based certified personal trainer and instructor at Brooklyn Bridge Boot Camp. “The rest needs to come from proper nutrition and a positive sense of self.” It only takes a few minutes to consume about 1,000 calories (one Quiznos Classic Italian sub, for instance)—but it can take hours to burn that sandwich off.

9. Tackle the best time to burn fat

Hundt advises doing cardio in the morning, on an empty stomach, if you’re looking to shed some weight. “Since you haven't eaten since dinner, the carbohydrate stores in your muscles and liver will be nearly depleted,” she says, “so your body has to reach into your fat stores for energy." She encourages lean people to eat easily digested carbs before morning workouts, such as oatmeal and fruit—or risk losing lean muscle mass.

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