It's true, all fitness workouts are not created equal. Some are fun and exciting and beckon your return, while others become dull and invite plateaus. • If you are a longtime exerciser and are not happy with your results, it may very well be time to "jazz things up." And no, you will not have to spend hours at the gym. • "The nice thing about exercise is that the benefits are cumulative," said Cedric Bryant, chief exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise. "It's kind of like loose change in your pocket — it all adds up." • Short 10 to 15 minute bouts of exercise can work, but when it comes to cardio and the desire for weight loss, your intensity level plays a major role in how many calories you are burning. While many may associate increasing intensity with high-impact moves such as running and jumping, it does not have to be that way. Low impact, which means you will always have one foot in contact with the ground, can also be high intensity, in addition to being easier on joints.
Create more intensity
Walking is the most popular low-impact exercise. Increasing the pace, moving arms and interval training while walking will add intensity, but do not add weights while you are walking.
When you add speed, avoid taking longer steps; take fast short steps and arms should swing forward and back, not across the body.
Interval training will elevate your calorie-burning level, and it seems to make the time go faster. Break up your steady cardio by alternating higher and lower intensities. In a gym, you could walk or jog moderately on a treadmill, increasing speed or elevating the incline in intervals of three to four minutes. At home, walk at a comfortable intensity for two to three minutes, then speed up by jogging or walking fast for one minute; continue alternating intensities.
Multitasking works when you are short on time; combining cardio and strength exercises within the same workout can actually burn more calories. Try a mini cardio-resistance circuit. Select five to six strength exercises, using compound moves (see photos) and the same number of cardio moves. Alternating strength and cardio exercises for your desired amount of time would be one circuit.
Check your intensity
If you don't want to invest in a heart-rate monitor, here are two ways you can measure exercise intensity, and they both will offer a guideline to indicate if you are underachieving or overstressing:
Target heart rate. The Karvonen Heart Rate Formula is a mathematical formula to help determine your target heart rate training zone. You may use an online calculator, which will do the calculations for you. If you have medical issues and are not sure what intensity levels you should be dealing with, check with your physician.
How you feel. The easiest and most popular guideline for determining intensity levels while working out is the rate of perceived exertion, or RPE, developed by Dr. Gunnar Borg.
Rate how hard you feel you are working, on a scale of 0 (sitting) through 10 (sprinting). RPE of 1-2, exercise feels very easy. RPE of 3-4, you can comfortably talk while exercising. RPE of 5-6 signals a moderate intensity. You can still talk, but you sure can't sing. RPE of 7-8 indicates a strong intensity, becoming difficult to talk. RPE of 9, talking is not possible. RPE of 10, requires maximal exertion.
These combination exercises, demonstrated by Barbi Bozich, 55, of St. Petersburg, work both upper and lower body. Sally Anderson
Squat with chest press
Feet shoulder-width apart, hold weights by shoulders, palms facing inward. Bend knees and hips as if sitting in a chair. Do not go lower than thighs parallel to floor. Contract abdominals while pressing through heels to stand up straight onto balls of feet, bringing weights overhead.
Lunge with biceps curl
Standing tall, step forward, left foot about 3 feet in front of right foot. With elbows at your sides, hold weights with palms facing upward. As you bend both knees, lowering left knee until thigh is near parallel to floor, curl weights toward shoulders. Lower weights to original position as you straighten legs.
Calf raise and triceps
Standing with feet close together, hold weights at your sides, palms facing inward. Rise up onto balls of feet, lifting heels off floor. At the same time, keeping arms straight, press arms behind you, turning wrists so palms face to the back. Lower heels and arms, returning to original position.
A cardiovascular exercise that involves total body movement. Begin with legs in a staggered position, one foot about 3 feet in front of other foot. If left foot is in front, lift right arm to the front and slightly upward, left arm down slightly to the back. Begin movement by shifting feet and arms as if you were skiing.