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5 ways to get fitter in 5 minutes

Finding ways to get fitter doesn’t have to come down to spending more time working out. Sometimes all it takes is tweaking your existing workouts to produce better cardiovascular fitness, muscle tone and flexibility. Here’s how

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women yoga class

1. Stretch this way

Make the most of the final five minutes of your workouts by gently stretching all your major muscles. They’ll be at their warmest and most pliable at this time.

Gaining flexibility is essential to your overall fitness level. It helps reduce muscle tension, decrease muscle imbalances and prevent injuries during future workouts and everyday life.

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exercise bikes

2. Warm up the right way

Use your time wisely in the first five minutes of your workout. The more effective the warmup is, the more prepared your body will be for the exercise to follow-and that can make you feel stronger.

Pick movements with a large range of motion that mimic the exercises you are about to do in the rest of the workout-for example, light activity on an elliptical machine or brisk walking and jogging before a run.

Reduce stiff muscles with active stretching that keeps your body moving. Save static stretching (where you hold the stretch without moving) for after the workout (see tip 5).

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woman running with dog fitness

3. Ramp it up in one-minute intervals

One of the best ways to give your fitness level a pick-me-up is with interval training, where you go harder than normal for a short time, then work out at an easier or moderate pace to recover.

You can boost fitness and burn extra calories in a moderately paced workout by adding intervals to your routine. Space one-minute intensity intervals about five minutes apart in your normal cardio workout. For each one-minute interval, exercise at a pace that feels challenging and vigorous. After the minute is up, go back to a moderate pace for the next four minutes. Repeat sequence until you’ve completed all five one-minute intervals. That’s five minutes total of intense, fitness-boosting exercise.

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woman snacking

4. Pack a post-workout snack

Eating the right balance of foods shortly after a workout helps your body replenish energy stores, repair muscle tissue and recover from exercise, says a joint statement from major nutrition and athletic performance associations, including the Dietitians of Canada. All this helps you make the most of the workout you just did and gets you optimally ready for your next one.

Take a few minutes before each workout to pack a post-workout snack and another few minutes after exercising to eat it. Good post-exercise snacks combine healthy carbs and protein, such as a banana and almond butter on whole-grain crackers or a fruit smoothie with yogurt.

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woman lifting weights

5. Pump up your toning routine

It might surprise you to see how many toning exercises you can complete in just five minutes if you take two important steps:

• Combine upper- and lower-body movements into one exercise (e.g., squats with shoulder raises or lunges with biceps curls).
• Go from one exercise to the next without stopping for more than a 15- or 20-second break during the allotted five minutes.

You’ll keep your heart rate up more than if you were to exercise only one body part at a time with lots of rest in between sets. Plus, you’ll save time-perhaps five minutes or more-that you can then incorporate back into your workout.

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