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Martina's Fat-Burning Secret

She adds strength training to her workouts to boost metabolism and build muscles and bones. Shouldn't you?

En español | So you want to shed some pounds? Well, that normally means exercise (and a healthy diet). Your first move might be to take a walk, or jump on a treadmill, or head to the gym. But soon, you’re bored with your workouts. Weeks go by, and your clothes are still tight. You start to wonder: Is there a way to get results with fewer hassles and in less time?

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Yes! Try strength training, the only form of exercise that boosts metabolism — 24 hours a day, seven days a week — by building lean muscle tissue. Muscle burns up to 50 calories per pound each day. That means if you put on 5 pounds of muscle, you could drop 26 pounds of pure fat in a year. After age 20, most adults lose about half a pound of muscle every year, so the body burns fewer and fewer calories. This results in weight gain as you get older, even if you’re not eating more than you did before.

Strength training is a great calorie burner in itself. One study of people who pumped iron showed that they upped their burn-off by 300 calories a day. And it helps build bone, which can help you avoid fractures and stay active and independent for life.

I began building more strength training into my workouts in 1981. One of the things I’ve discovered is that you don’t need expensive dumbbells, barbells and machines to build strength. You can do simple exercises in your own home, using your body weight.

There also are inexpensive exercise “toys” for building strength, including stability balls, resistance bands and medicine balls. When you vary the equipment you use, your workouts won’t get stale and you’ll be more psyched up to train. Keep in mind, though, that exercise toys are secondary. A consistent effort is the key to a stronger, more conditioned you.

Woman doing pushups

— Mark Weiss/Corbis

Here are a few more tips:

● When building strength, make sure to include at least one exercise for each of your major muscle groups: thighs, chest, back, shoulders, arms, abdominals and calves.
● Try to work on strengthening muscles a minimum of two days a week on nonconsecutive days. If you’re not yet well-conditioned, do one exercise per muscle group (2 or 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions). If you’re more conditioned, do two or three exercises per muscle group (2 to 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions). A twice-weekly strength-training program is doable for most busy people, and you’ll achieve good results that can be maintained over time.
● If burning fat is your primary goal, however, focus on building the muscle groups that consume the most calories, such as your butt, thighs and chest. Working smaller muscles, such as your triceps or calves, will have less impact.
● Breathe naturally as you work out. Never hold your breath.

Don’t be intimidated by the term "strength training." Use it to get fit, stay lean and be healthy — forever. 

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