Some days making time to exercise isn’t that simple. Whether you are trying to fit in your cardio workout during a short lunch break, or just want to get your heart rate up before the sun goes down, celebrity trainer Ramona Braganza has some ideas for you. Make sure to do a quick warm-up like a one or two minute power walk or jog before you get started.

If you have five minutes, hit the treadmill for some interval sprinting. Make sure to choose a machine that has side shoulders wide enough to rest your feet.

Begin by standing on the treadmill shoulders. Set the treadmill speed 1.5 levels above the setting at which you normally run. So if you normally set the treadmill at 7.5 for a good run, kick it up to 9 for your sprints. Hop onto the treadmill and sprint for 10 seconds. Hop off, placing your feet on either side of the tread, for 20 seconds and completely rest.

10 sets

If you have a bit more time, add a three-minute warm up (one minute walk, plus a two-minute jog) before the sprint/rest sets and finish up with a four-minute jog.

There is a big difference between running and sprinting–a difference you can feel. “The work time should be hard enough that you need the recovery,” says Braganza. If you aren’t ready to rest after each sprint, increase the speed on the treadmill.

If you want to kick your sprinting up a notch, increase the incline of the treadmill after each sprint.

If you are bored of the treadmill, then try Braganza’s four-part, 10-minute “kick-butt kickbox.”

Jump rope or jumping jacks:
1 minute Heavy bag, alternating between hitting the bag with jab crosses and kicks:
1 minute Squats: 1 minuteCrunches: 1 minute

Cycle through the moves until your time runs out.

If you want to really focus on strengthening your lower-body, this sweat-inducing combo of lunges and jump squats will do it.

Squat jumps (when squatting, make sure not to let your knees go in front of your toes): 10 repsStep side to side touching opposite foot in front of the other while you raise and lower your arms: 30 seconds

Cycle through these moves until your time runs out.

Don’t read on the treadmill. That magazine could be lulling you into a less-strenuous workout.If there is a choice between a sitting move and a standing move, choose the upright one; instead of a recumbent bike, choose an upright bike or, even better, the elliptical or treadmill. When weightlifting, instead of performing seated shoulder press or lateral raises, try them standing.Keep tabs on your heart rate. This will help you gauge if your training is too easy, too hard or just right. An easy way to determine your heart rate while doing your cardio is to get a heart rate monitor. Don’t forget: To determine your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220. To find out what your heart rate range should be, multiply your maximum heart rate by .85 to get your high-intensity target number and .60 for your low-intensity target number.Swap out a gym day for a romp outside. Not only do your feet have to work harder to keep you balanced with all of the terrain changes when exercising in the natural world, but working out outside is a great cure for boredom. “You have to pay attention when you run outside,” says Braganza. Look for stairs and inclines like hills to tackle on your next hike.

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How do Hollywood’s hottest celebs keep their envy-inducing figures?

“The key is consistency and intensity,” says celebrity trainer and Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute member Ramona Braganza, who helped Anne Hathaway tone up for the 2008 Oscars and Jessica Alba drop her post-baby weight.

“When celebs have to get in shape, they are really on top of it,” agrees Adam Friedman, a certified personal trainer at the Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute whose clients include model and Olympic volleyball star Gabrielle Reece and NBA forward Austin Croshere. “They view working out as not just for health, but as a responsibility to their profession.”

But that doesn’t mean you can’t create your own Hollywood-inspired workout at home. Braganza thinks taking fitness cues from your favorite celebs is a great way to put a fresh spin on your gym routine. For example, to help today’s leading ladies perfect their figures for upcoming roles, Braganza alternates 10-minute intervals of cardio with three sets of circuit strength-training and core exercises. She notes: “You have to keep the heart rate up throughout the routine for maximum calorie burn.”

Ramona Braganza

Today’s starlets don’t want to bulk up, so cardio is king, Friedman says. Cycling, running on the beach (and from paparazzi!) and climbing the trendy Santa Monica Stairs, a taxing set of 154 steep wood stairs, are popular ways to burn calories. The Los Angeles-based trainer also relies on functional body-weight exercises — moves like push-ups and squats, which challenge your muscle groups to work together at once — to get his famous clients in their best shape ever. “The idea is to recruit the highest amount of muscle fibers at a time, because the more you’re getting your nervous system involved, the more calories you’re going to burn, the more fat you’re going to burn, the more challenging the exercise is going to be,” he says.

Adam Friedman

His tried-and-true favorite? The dreaded lunge.

“Lunges are the No. 1 most hated exercise among all my clients,” Friedman says with a smile. “They’re hard and they hurt! But there are so many benefits and so many variations that hit all the areas you want to target.” Case in point: Braganza’s client Jessica Alba reportedly owes her refined behind to a strict diet of lunges.

For an extra challenge, pair the moves with a weight known as a kettlebell, as Friedman makes his pro athletes do, to really work your core and develop explosiveness. “But you should already have a strong foundation in your core, so it’s not something to go to right away,” he warns.

According to Braganza, making those basic changes to your routine will help to keep exercise fresh and exciting.

“Variety is very important,” she says. “For my clients, I try to find what they enjoy and then include it somehow every few workouts, whether it’s boxing drills, hiking or dance classes.”

One activity in particular is especially popular with today’s leading ladies: yoga.

“Celebrities love yoga!” Friedman says. “It works for them on a mental level, and they love stretching and the feeling they get.” Not to mention long, lean muscles and improved balance and posture. And good posture can mean the difference between a great red-carpet photo and a nod on the worst-dressed list.

“Carrying your head and shoulders forward with bad posture doesn’t look good in pictures or in the mirror,” Friedman explains. “But if you improve your posture and strengthen your back, you’ll look dramatically different and your energy will be different.”

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Did you know that having a workout partner not only makes you healthier, it can help you find a job, get more motivated and create stronger family bonds? Below, you can read up on new studies that show the benefits of partnering up, and Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute trainer Nikki Kimbrough shares a few true-life tales from her boot camp classes.

Perk: As Kimbrough explains, a fitness class is the perfect place to network, because you’re not trying to schmooze.

True story: “People just start talking about work and one thing leads to another,” she says. “Take Vickie, a public relations manager, and Ben, a marketing exec. Vickie’s company needed an outside vendor to do some market research and she mentioned it during a water break. Ben explained how his company had handled a similar situation and she asked if he’d send over a proposal. Boom! New business.”

Perk: Having a fitness partner who is in better shape than yourself can inspire you to boost your own performance.

Study: Researchers at Union College conducted a series of experiments that included younger and older participants riding reality-enhanced “cybercycles” alongside virtual and real partners who were quicker and had more endurance. The conclusions were consistent: Whether it was a virtual partner or a real one, most participants stepped up their game and pushed a bit harder to keep up.

Perk: Larger workout groups can be even better for morale. Find your healthy circle in a fitness class or a personal training group.

Study: In a recent study at Michigan State University, 58 physically active women were divided into three groups. In the first group, each woman worked out alone. In the second, each had a virtual exercise partner. The third group worked out as a team along with a virtual partner. The group that worked out as a team exercised 11 minutes longer than the group that exercised alone, and two minutes longer than the group that exercised only with a virtual partner.

Perk: Longtime couples and new lovers can keep each other on track and in shape.

Study: Couples who start a fitness program together are more likely to stick with it, according to a study out of Indiana University Bloomington. The study’s final results showed that only 8% of the participants who worked out with their spouses quit, compared with half of those who exercised independently.

Perk: Exercising with a family member gives you a healthy way to spend time together—versus just shopping, eating or getting drinks.

Study: “One of my clients, Melissa, had really started losing weight and her mom noticed—and joined the class,” Kimbrough recalls. “I know she and her mom had had problems in the past, but boot camp gave them something healthy to bond over. And now you can just see how close they are.”

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Leave the chocolate shaped hearts on the shelf and spend quality time working out with your loved one this Valentine’s Day.  Dr. Belisa Vranich, sports psychologist and Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute member, provides you with five tips on how to strengthen your relationship, while increasing your natural libido, through exercising together.

1.  Learn to be a good partner.  “Be flexible about what your partner likes to do, it’s simply a matter of taste,” advises Vranich.  If you push your partner to do an exercise they don’t enjoy, chances are they won’t feel inclined to hit the gym with you again!

2. Communication is key! Try to focus on doing exercises that require spotting. Spotting each other requires you to build excellent communication and trust, two vital things for a strong relationship.  “Couples who workout together, and especially those that spot each other, have better communication because they know how the other thinks and are more astute to body language,” comments Vranich.

3.  Don’t be afraid to get close. Doing exercises side by side makes couples feel like they are doing something physically productive together.  Exercises such as squats require you to pay very close attention to your partner while keeping minimal distance from one another.

4.  Encouragement is essential.  Praise your partner for going to the gym every single time.  “Always applaud them for a body part that looks good, and remember that it is better when criticism comes from within than without,” adds Vranich.

5. Let nature do its thing. Attraction is affected by arousal, plus endorphins from working out improves your mood and enhances the connection between you and your partner. “Sweat produces pheromones and has its highest performance level right after working out,” comments Vranich. The fact that you are sweating together will naturally increase your libido.

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For millions of overweight, couch-bound Americans, the word “exercise” conjures up visions of hectic aerobics classes, marathon running or hours-long workouts at the gym.

It’s all a bit daunting.

But new research is beginning to change that view. Study after study is showing that small amounts of physical activity — even walking the dog — can boost health in unexpected ways.

“For some people, it’s as simple as parking their car on the far side of the parking lot and walking, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. But the more you do, the better,” said Dr. Gerald Fletcher, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., and a spokesman for the American Heart Association.

More and more, fitness experts and physicians are discovering that exercise, like medicine, works on a dose-response basis — even a little is good, moderate amounts are better, and vigorous exercise provides even more rewards.

Some evidence from the recent literature:

A Duke University study of 133 overweight people found that a moderate fitness regimen involving a brisk one- to two-mile walk, four or five days a week, offered big improvements in cardiovascular health;A similar study, this time from the University of Florida, Gainesville, found that walking just a half-hour a day for five or more days a week greatly boosted the heart health of middle-aged “couch potatoes”;In a Seattle study, an hour per week spent gardening cut cardiac arrest risk by 66 percent; an hour per week spent walking slashed that risk by 73 percent;People suffering from the painful condition peripheral arterial disease (PAD) also reaped real benefits from walking just three times a week, a Northwestern University study found;And a University of Missouri-Columbia study found that even our four-legged friends can help: Researchers found that overweight individuals who walked their dogs each day dropped an average of 14 pounds over the course of a year — beating the results of most weight-loss plans.

Fletcher said it’s important to get into a good exercise routine, preferably engaging in physical activity at the same time of day, each day. “Also, if you try and exercise two or three times a week, but then take a few days off, that’s not as good as doing something most days,” he said.

If walking a mile or two seems tough to visualize, he recommends driving it first in your car — watching the odometer to see just how far a distance it is from your home. “Then, walk to that point each day,” he said. Often, a little bit of exercise feels so good it gradually turns into a little bit more, he said.

“You can get more vigorous as you go,” Fletcher added. “We consider (walking) a 20-minute mile ‘moderate’ exercise. Walking or running that mile in 15 minutes gets into the area of ‘vigorous exercise.’”

Besides helping to shed pounds and bring a healthy elasticity to your step (and arteries), exercise can help clear the mind, too.

“What the studies are showing is that exercise, at least when performed in a group setting, seems to be at least as effective as standard antidepressants in reducing symptoms in patients with major depression,” researcher James Blumenthal, a professor of medical psychology at Duke University in Durham, N.C., toldHealthDay.

Right now, just sitting on the sofa for long stretches is probably giving millions of Americans the blues, Fletcher pointed out. “Only about 25 percent of us exercise properly, and about 20 percent do absolutely nothing. The rest are in the middle — sometimes they do it, sometimes they don’t.”

Before beginning any exercise routine, it’s important to check with your doctor, particularly if you have a history of health problems. Then, once you get clearance, get moving.

The key, Fletcher said, is to start your physical-activity routine with small steps — literally.

“Walk a little, bike,” he said. “Remember, anything you do is better than nothing at all.”Originally published on HealthDay

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