Winter Weight

Smart advice for shedding holiday pounds. 

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Mind Your Body: Fast Break

Strengthen your heart

While any form of exercise provides a wealth of health perks, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is optimal for keeping your ticker strong. Compared to moderate exercise, HIIT is better at reversing risk factors that contribute to metabolic syndrome—a combination of high blood pressure and cholesterol, abdominal obesity, and insulin resistance that increases your odds of a heart attack or diabetes.

Get happy

In research comparing three styles of exercise—steady state, intervals, and an uphill bout to exhaustion—intervals boosted mood the most, inducing a sense of well-being and reducing stress. The reason may be that the periods of less intense activity that follow endorphin-producing intense exercise provide not only a physical break but a psychological one as well, explains Michele Olson, a professor of exercise science at the Human Performance Laboratory at Auburn University in Montgomery, Georgia, who conducted the study.

Get in shape faster

HIIT whips you into shape faster than other kinds of cardio by boosting your "VO2 max," the maximum amount of oxygen you use during high-intensity exertion and a measure of your cardiovascular fitness. "People with high levels of VO2 max use oxygen more efficiently so they can work out longer and harder before tiring out," explains Wayne Westcott, fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, Massachusetts.

Burn fat

Because HIIT's work bouts are performed at full throttle, it takes longer for your metabolism to return to its normal resting rate than with other forms of exercise. This means that up to 24 hours after you work out, you'll still be burning up to 15 percent more calories than if you hadn't exercised.—Holly St. Lifer

Training Day

You don't need to be an endurance athlete to do intervals, but because HIIT is so demanding it's important to build up to it. Start with this plan by Mike Monroe, a personal trainer and triathlete.

  • On the treadmill, elliptical trainer, or stationary bicycle—or outside—sprint for two minutes, and then walk or jog lightly for one minute. Do the cycle four times.
  • When that becomes easier, increase to four minutes of sprinting with two minutes of active rest. Work your way up to six to eight rounds.
  • Warm up with a five-minute walk, and stretch as part of your final recovery.
  • Try to go faster each time.
  • Stop sprinting and use the full recovery period, even if you feel you don't need it.