Exercising is an investment. It requires time, resources and energy—three things that are in short supply for the vast majority of us. Nonetheless, the benefits make it worth the effort and focusing on a few small lifestyle changes is more effective than trying “all or nothing” fad diets. There are many little things you can do every day to promote weight loss and support metabolism and overall health. For example, the following hacks can boost the efficiency of your workouts and help you find ways to squeeze physical activity into even the busiest of schedules.
1. MAKE EVERY MINUTE COUNT
At the end of a busy workday you’re drained, stressed and in no mood to run off to Pilates. We get it. But, rather than let another night pass without any physical activity, try squeezing some in while you go about your normal evening routine. Alternate between crunches and jumping jacks while watching your favorite TV show, spend 15 minutes dancing around your living room and hold yourself in plank position while your dinner cooks in the microwave. Experts say to aim for 30 minutes of physical activity every day, however, that half hour can be broken out into three 10-minute sessions and still bring benefits and results. Productive bursts of activity during the natural pauses in your day will energize you and increase the number of calories your body burns. In fact, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that you can boost your metabolism just by getting out of your office chair a few times a day.
2. CAFFEINATE YOURSELF
In addition to waking you up in the morning, a cup or two of coffee can stimulate your metabolism and boost your performance during physical activity. For optimal results, consume a small amount of caffeine just before exercising—you’ll work out harder and burn more calories. Just be sure to avoid sugar- and fat-loaded fancy coffee drinks like lattes, and opt instead for a plain cup of joe with low-fat milk. Or, if you’re not a coffee drinker, get your caffeine from another source, such as a supplement or a cup of caffeinated green or black tea.
3. USE YOUR CALENDAR
Treat exercise as you would any other appointment by making it a priority and blocking off time for it in your schedule. Your workout appointments don’t need to take up huge chunks of your day, and you’ll actually be more productive at work if you set aside time to focus on yourself. Try scheduling 15 minutes in the morning, 15 minutes at lunch and 15 minutes in the evening, and be sure to turn on your notification alerts. Getting pop-up reminders on your phone will provide extra motivation, and limiting your commitment to brief intervals will prevent the prospect of exercise from feeling too daunting. For example, your midday “appointment” could be as simple as stepping away from your desk to take a brisk 15-minute walk outside.
4. KEEP THINGS BRIEF, BUT INTENSE
Recent studies have found that workouts don’t need to be long to produce results. In fact, short bursts of exercise provide just about the same health benefits as long, drawn-out sessions. High-Intensity Interval (HIIT) workouts are extremely effective, can be done in less time than it takes to watch a sitcom and are available for streaming via numerous platforms. One of the most popular HIIT workouts is the Tabata, which takes a mere four minutes. Getting in just a few HIIT workouts a week is a super-efficient way to get your heart rate going and torch calories.
5. SHAKE IT UP
Drinking a low-calorie whey protein shake shortly after exercise (even short bouts of it) will ensure you get the most out of your physical exertion because your body will do a more efficient job of repairing and building muscle, which ultimately leads your body to burn fat more efficiently—even when you aren’t working out. Protein is crucial for weight loss, but when you are strapped for time it can be hard to get in the daily recommended amount. Drinking a protein shake is a great way to make sure you are consuming enough and maximizing the results you see from exercise. Just be sure to factor the calories into your overall daily consumption to ensure you don’t exceed your allotted budget.
6. CREATE PERFECT PLAYLISTS
Listening to your favorite upbeat tunes while you work out can provide a positive distraction, reduce your perception of effort and may even help you exercise longer. To get the most out of your music, pick songs with BPMs that correspond to your target heart rate. What you listen to after working out matters as well. A study in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology found that people who listened to slow and relaxing music just after working out experienced faster recovery than those who did not listen to any music at all.