How to achieve the quickest fitness wins

When it comes to fitness and exercise, I find many people think that seeing results means doing A LOT of exercise. If they don't get the results they're after, they think they need to do even more exercise, which can lead us to stressing about finding the time, or giving up on exercise totally. There never seem to be enough hours in the day!

The exciting news is that often less is more when it comes to achieving fitness wins. And in fact the less we do can sometimes be even more beneficial for us. If you like the sound of this, read on for four fast ways to get great, simple fitness wins.

Keep it simple

To get you closer to your goals, exercise doesn't have to be complicated, cost a fortune, be the latest craze or only happen in a fancy class. The most important thing is to choose something you enjoy doing, especially when starting out or getting back into exercise. When we enjoy things, we're more likely to do them - it's that simple. And in the first three weeks of any exercise programme, the goal is to create a habit and integrate exercise and movement into your lifestyle. You can add other forms of exercise later on and start focussing on more specific goals. But when starting out just do something you love for at least 20 mins, four times a week.

Do less

Yes that's right - pull right back on the exercise duration and go for intensity. Keeping exercise short and intense is fantastic on two levels. You have more time to do other things as well as exercise, and short, intense bouts of exercise are far better for burning fat, boosting energy, improving mood and managing stress levels. Aim for anything between 8 and 16 minutes of intermittent intense exercise, like walking for 30 seconds and running for 60 seconds for 10 minutes, or alternating sprinting for 8 seconds and jogging for 12 seconds. Try a bike interval session pedalling fast for 20 seconds and slow for 40 seconds for 16 minutes. It's great to do this type of exercise earlier in the day to help with energy, fat burning and mood and leave a relaxing, longer walk or bike ride to later in the day.

Choose your exercise to fit your goal

Once you are over the first three or four weeks of starting or getting back into any exercise regime, start to think about your goal in relation to the type of exercise you do. Being specific in your goals will help you achieve them much faster. Exercise with weights is great for toning. After a few weeks you need to increase the weight to continue to achieve your goals, so be sure to bear this in mind if you're doing classes as this is not always easy to do. Pilates is a great blend of toning and conditioning while improving posture. Walking is great for managing stress, general health and helping to manage weight. Boxing, circuits and intense exercise are perfect for fat burning and improving your ability to use calories long-term. Body weight exercises are great for conditioning and toning the body, and if performed in circuits or with a little cardio such as running on the spot or jogging in between or afterwards, it will also help burn fat. Swimming is excellent for range of motion, especially for those who have joint issues and for general health, as well as providing resistance for some toning and conditioning.

Optimise your timing

I always say the best time to exercise is the one you actually do and fits with your schedule, but if you have some flexibility in when you exercise here are a few little tips for optimising your times:

High Intensity exercise for fat burning is best completed in the morning and I like to have my clients do no later than 11am for them to get the most benefits. You will experience improved results for the rest of the day and not just the time you were exercising.

Weight training is great when performed late afternoon or evening for optimal results. Ensure you eat well after this exercise to maximise your results. Remember using weights to exercise breaks down muscle fibres and our results come when we heal and repair, which is best done with good food to recover and great sleep.
Moderate walking/swimming/Pilates I like to include in the afternoon or in the evening to help me relieve tension, relax and unwind, and sleep, but any time of the day is great for these.

These are some great little guidelines to help you optimise your fitness. Remember the best exercise is the one you actually do, so choose the one you love.


Lee-Anne Wann is a fitness specialist, nutritionist, presenter and author. She is the nutritionist for the Vodafone New Zealand Warriors rugby league team and has presented on the New Zealand show Kiwi Living.