Get Fitter Faster: 10 Sneaky Shortcuts

By Tracy Teare

Follow our foolproof shortcuts to whip your body and motivation into shape.

Related: The Top 10 Exercises for Every Body Part

Quick Weight-Loss Tips
Use these secrets and start peeling off the pounds.

  • Fire up your metabolism with intervals. One study found that doing 10 four-minute speed bursts with two minutes of slow walking or cycling after each (60 minutes total) three times a week upped the body's ability to use fat as fuel during exercise by 25 percent after six weeks. "Shoot for an eight or nine on an intensity scale of one to 10, where 10 is an all-out sprint," says lead researcher Christopher Perry, PhD, an exercise physiologist at the University of Guelph in Canada. Related: The Metabolism-Boosting Workout
  • Crack an egg for breakfast. Go for a little extra protein first thing in the day and your brain will stave off the munchies later on, according to the latest findings from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Former breakfast skippers who ate a morning meal with a side of yogurt showed fewer feed-me brain impulses and felt fuller. Related: Healthy Ways to Eat Carbs for Breakfast
  • Bypass the fat-burning zone. Forget this so-called sweet spot, when you go slow in order to sizzle a higher percentage of calories from fat: Burning more total calories at the highest intensity that you can sustain means you'll also burn more fat overall. For a measure of which zone you're in, strap on a heart rate monitor. Walk or jog lightly (the half-effort pace dubbed the fat-burning zone), noting the number of beats per minute (bpm) on its display. "That's the number to reach on an easy day," says John Porcari, PhD, FITNESS advisory board member and program director in the clinical exercise physiology department at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Then power walk or run at your usual pace and see what your heart rate is; this is your moderate-intensity target, which is your best bet for getting a longer workout with a bigger calorie burn. Add some short, fast intervals toward the end and note the bpm to mark your high-intensity zone for when you want to push it. Related: How to Burn More Calories at Every Workout

Fast Fitness and Workout Tips
Tone up in no time, from your ticker to your tush, with these easy tweaks.

  • Tighten your abs with balancing tricks. Exercising on wobbly surfaces forces you to engage your core more, flattening your belly. Do your biceps curls standing on one leg on a Bosu ball or this pike move with a stability ball: Start on the floor in full push-up position with shins on top of ball. Contract your abs and lift your hips to slowly roll the ball forward, keeping your legs straight (end with ankles on ball), to form an inverted V; roll back to start. Do two sets of 20 reps. Related: 15 Minutes to Flatter Abs
  • Squeeze more sculpting out of each rep. Rather than do three fast sets of one strength-training move, do one set of 10 controlled reps in 60 seconds, says Wayne Westcott, PhD, fitness research director for the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, Massachusetts. "Not only do you save the time you would have used to rest between sets," he says, "but because you're no longer relying on momentum, you're also guaranteed to work the targeted muscles more and maintain good form." Related: 5 Ways to Fast-Track Your Strength Training
  • Get more with a cup of joe. You've heard that coffee can kick-start your workout, but how much does it take to net the effect? According to recent studies from the Australian Institute of Sport, even small amounts of caffeine -- 1.4 milligrams per pound of body weight, or about two cups of coffee a day for the average 140-pound woman -- can help boost speed during cardio, like cycling and swimming. For the best pick-me-up, take your daily dose shortly before you hit the gym or when you start to flag. Related: Our Complete Guide to Running

Easy Ways to Get More Motivated
Rev up your mojo in mere seconds.

  • Move to improve your 'tude. Sneak in a morning sweat session and you'll experience the exercise high all day: Research from the University of Vermont in Burlington shows that doing just 20 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise -- brisk walking or easy-paced cycling, for example -- gives you a feel-good mood recharge that lasts up to 12 hours. Related: The Happy Diet (Yes, It Does Exist!)
  • See green to enjoy your routine. A Swiss study of 319 city dwellers determined that they found outdoor workouts more restorative than indoor ones. Find a walking or jogging route on or a nearby bike path at Related: Keep Track of Your Calories and Progress
  • Chill out to firm up. Take five at the water fountain to clear your head before you rep: Less-stressed exercisers who lifted weights increased their strength gains by up to 25 percent compared with tenser folks, according to a study at the University of Texas at Austin. Related: 20-Minute Workout for Stress Relief
  • Divide and conquer any distance. Imagine mini finish lines along your jogging loop to rejuice your stride and make the time fly. For instance, think in five-mile increments when you tackle double-digit distances, top U.S. marathoner Kara Goucher says. "If I start to get tired, I visualize myself crossing the finish line, which helps me dig a little deeper." Related: 7 Ways to Stick to Any Goal

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