10 ways to burn more calories and increase your fitness levels

by Naomi Tupper on January 2, 2013 · 1 comment

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Whether you are starting a new exercise regime or just looking to kick-start your usual training routine, most people are searching for ways to boost their fitness levels and burn more calories in their workouts.  As we get fitter, exercise becomes easier and easier to do, making it a much more attractive prospect.  Similarly, if we burn more calories during our workouts, we can often see the effect this has on our body.

When starting to exercise for the first time, the increase in fitness and calories burnt are usually apparent in the way we feel and weight we lose.  However, over time this effect becomes less obvious and it may be necessary to try something new to keep on getting those good results.

1. Use all of your body

A lot of cardio activities are more focused on the lower part of the body such as running, cycling and stepping.  However, to increase the calories you burn during a workout; it can be more effective to do activities that get as many of your muscles as possible working at once.  Swimming, cross training and rowing all do this.

You do not have to use every muscle in every workout, but by doing one of these complete body workouts once or twice a week in combination with lower body focussed activities, you are likely to burn more calories as well as tone your upper body.

If none of these activities appeal to you, at least try to incorporate a few different activities into your workout in a week to vary the muscles used.

2. Do cardio first

Cardiovascular training (anything that gets your heart pumping and increases your rate of breathing), is generally more effective in burning calories than resistance training.  It has also been suggested that by doing the cardio part of your workout first, you will burn more calories than when you start with resistance training as your post exercise oxygen consumption is elevated.  This means that the calories you burn in the time after your cardio workout, is increased slightly.

This does not mean that resistance training should be forgotten as it burns less calories than cardio.  It can also play a part in increasing your overall calorie expenditure as well as improving the appearance of the body and replacing lean tissue.

3. Interval training

There is some evidence that fast intervals followed by a period of recovery may be more beneficial in burning calories than longer, less intense periods of activity.  Generally, interval training can also mean you can burn more calories in a shorter time period by including short periods at a high intensity and so is often a good fitness option for those with limited time to work out.

To really increase your fitness endurance however, it is thought that intervals should be combined with longer workouts.

4. Increase intensity

The simplest way to burn more calories and improve your fitness in your workout is to increase the intensity at which you are working.  This could mean bumping up the speed or choosing a more challenging setting on a machine such as a hill workout or greater resistance.  If you workout outdoors, try to incorporate sprints into your normal jog, or change your route to tackle a few more hills.

Remember to increase intensity a little at a time, as a big jump can lead to overexertion or be uncomfortable enough to put you off completely.

5. Increase training time

Increasing your training time will generally increase your fitness and calories burnt, as long as you keep the same (or greater) level of intensity.  There may be a tendency to drop the pace off when doing a longer workout, which could mean that you are in fact not burning as many calories as you do in a shorter more intense workout.

However, if you keep the same pace, but gradually increase the time of your workout, you are likely to see benefits both in cardiovascular fitness and calories burnt.  Of course for the best results an increase in intensity and time is ideal.

6. Don’t forget incidental activities

It is easy to forget that burning calories and gaining fitness does not all have to take place in the gym.  Anything that gets your heart working and makes you breathe more deeply is increasing your fitness.

Climbing stairs is an excellent activity to boost fitness and burn extra calories as a course of your day.  Walking instead of taking a bus or car is also a great way to burn more, especially if you try to set a decent pace whenever you are walking.

Activities such as these can also be easily increased in duration as you get fitter, simply get off the bus a stop or two earlier each week or climb an extra flight of stairs instead of the lift.

7. Mix up your training

When you always do the same activities, your body becomes used to your routine and adapts to it by burning less calories.  To keep your body guessing, and therefore maximising the calories burnt, try to vary your workout as much as possible.

This could mean mixing between longer sessions and interval training as well as doing different forms of cardio, preferably ones that work different muscle groups.

8. Build muscle

By doing resistance training such as weights or using a resistance band, you build lean tissue as well as burn calories.  Lean tissue is more metabolically active that fat, meaning that even at rest if you have a greater proportion of muscle you will burn more calories.

Lifting weights can also help to rebuild some of the muscle tissue that is lost with age and which can also be lost due to intense cardio regimes.

9. Listen to your heart

For those who like a numerical approach to fitness, a heart rate monitor may be an effective tool.  By working at specific target heart rates, rather than speeds or intensity levels on machines you can constantly push your limits in line with your increasing fitness levels.

The fitter you are the less increase you will see in your heart rate when you exercise, so it is also a good tool to monitor your fitness levels and gauge if they are improving.

Your maximum heart rate when working out can be calculated by subtracting your age from 220.  To improve fitness levels and lose weight you should aim to work out at about 60-80% of this maximum.

10. Be consistent

In any form of exercise, in order to see results you need to be consistent in your regime.  Going to the gym everyday for a week, then spending the rest of the month in front of the TV is not going to produce any increases in your fitness level and any weight loss you may have achieved during that week will quickly be undone.

For this reason, rather than focussing too much on burning optimum calories and getting as fit as possible in the shortest time, it may be more appropriate and realistic to simply concentrate on finding a level and type of physical activity you can maintain in the long term.

When this is firmly established as part of your routine, you can look at increasing fitness levels and calories burnt per session.

References used in this article

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Naomi Tupper
About the author

Naomi studied Nutrition and Dietetics and Biotechnology. She is a certified dietician with experience in Type 2 diabetes and menu planning for weight loss. Naomi is a contributor for our Diet and Nutrition sections. You can connect with her on Facebook and Google+

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Fana June 16, 2014 at 8:13 pm

Hi Naomi,

Thanks a million! This article is incredibly helpful and will definitely assist me from my next training session onward.

Thanks again,
Fana

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