The right kind of exercise with the right nutrition is the way to go, say experts. Here are 10 ways you can make every minute really count

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The right kind of exercise with the right nutrition is the way to go, say experts. Here are 10 ways you can make every minute really count

Not having enough time is one of the biggest reasons why we don’t work out – but what if we told you that by working smarter you could cut your exercise time but not your results? “In the past, fitness athletes believed that training harder is the key to better performance but research has proven otherwise,” says Louis Chan, fitness coach, nutrition specialist and founder of Fitness Ironman ( More is not always better, says Louis, adding that training smarter is also a good way to prevent injuries. “The most important thing to learn is the right kind and amount of exercise to get the ideal response from your body.”

Focus on your exercise order

If your goal is to get flat abs, create stronger legs or improve your fitness, do the moves that will help you achieve that first. This way, you’re more likely to reach your goal. Because you’ve got more energy at the beginning of a workout, you can work the relevant muscles harder or go faster doing cardio.

For best results, do cardio after weight training as it will help improve overall fitness and endurance levels and also reduce body fats percentage, says Louis.

Get your rest time right

Long rests can eat up a lot of time in a workout. Rest for 60 seconds between sets, extending the time further if you find you can’t lift the same amount.

When strength training is involved however, longer rests are required as otherwise, the body can become fatigued and reach an “over-trained” state, says Louis. “As a general rule, you should not exercise the same muscle group two days in a row, and usually not more than three times a week.” So resting 24 hours between workouts is ideal so that the exercised muscles can complete their recovery processes.

Never walk if you can run

Running is the most common and safest aerobic exercise to improve overall fitness, it burns fat, improves cardiovascular performance and overall energy levels, as well as promotes longevity, according to Louis. So, except for “severely deconditioned individuals, walking has a negligible effect on your level of aerobic fitness, he says.

All factors considered, what will benefit you most is an exercise modality that stresses you sufficiently in order to enter the “training zone”, says Louis. It is recommended that you exercise at 55 to 85 per cent of your predicted maximum heart rate – and for most people, walking will not raise the heart levels enough to reach that zone. But, if you can’t run the whole way, at least add some short bursts of jogging to your walk to rev things up.

Never do the same workout twice

Switching how heavy the weight is and how often you lift it gives better strength results than sticking with the same plan every session, say German researchers.

Try four reps of each move with a heavy weight one session, then try 10 reps using a moderate weight.

Defy gravity

During a weights session, muscle builds after it tears and often the most “damage” occurs when the muscle lengthens – but this is often the part of the move when we release or lower the weight and let gravity take over. So make sure you control the weight through the whole move.

Do the full exercise

If you stop your squats when your thighs are parallel to the floor rather than going as far down as you can, or start a bicep curl with the weights at your waist rather than by your thighs, then you’re not working the muscles fully, which reduces effects on strength and toning.

If you’re using weights and can’t do the whole move, you’re probably using a weight that’s too heavy, so drop down to a lighter one. Being too ambitious and lifting heavier weights than one can handle will result in overcompensation – improper posture – which will prolong stress on lower back, joints and tendons and lead to permanent injuries, according to Louis.

Mix up your speed

Intervals, where you alternate bursts of fast movement with sessions of recovery, rev up metabolism, so effectively they burn up to 15 per cent more calories than the same amount of steady exercise. Doing faster, shorter intervals and mixing it up with weights will provide better results.

Beware the ab errors

If you’re doing sit-ups, never anchor your foot under something – it makes your hip flexor muscles work harder than your abs, reducing the efficacy of the move.

Also, one of the most common mistakes people make is thinking in terms of “spot-reduction”, says Louis. Doing more abs exercise will reduce belly fat, but effective fat loss requires activity or exercise that engages full body movement at 70 to 85 per cent intensity.

Skip the drinks afterwards

Drinking alcohol immediately after exercise is counter-productive, says dietitian Jaclyn Reutens of Aptima Nutrition and Sports Consultants ( “It interferes with glycogen synthesis and can reduce your blood glucose levels temporarily resulting in a spike after. It also halts muscle repair because your liver is busy breaking down alcohol rather than channelling its energy to making more protein for muscle repair,” she says.

So leave at least 24 hours after you’ve exercised before you have a drink.

Make wise food choices

Jaclyn recommends a meal plan that has a combination of high and low glycemic index carbs and reduced fat intake as it slows down muscle repair and digestion, and makes you feel sluggish. This means reduced intake of mayonnaise, oil, cream, butter and full fat dairy products.

“A good workout would require a quick replenishment of carbs and protein,” she says, recommending either a tuna sandwich or smoothie with milk, yoghurt and banana. Convenient carbohydrate-rich foods post-workout include isotonic drinks, bread, banana, eaten as a whole or in a smoothie, wholemeal biscuits, wraps, energy bars, cereal bars and cereals. Make use of sports drinks and gels wisely to get the most benefit from long workouts. When you are eating protein-rich foods, drink a lot of water too as protein breaks down and forms byproducts such as urea and nitrogen, which need to be excreted. No particular rules, but it is good to drink anywhere between 1.5 to 2 litres of water a day.

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Sitting for too long is bad for your health. The reason for this is that the chair supports your body, so your muscles don’t need to do very much. The inactive muscles aren’t using any fuel, so sugars remain in our bloodstream longer, which increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.

We burn fewer calories sitting than standing, and after 30 minutes of sitting, key fat-burning enzymes in the body also start to become inactive, potentially increasing the risk of weight gain. When we sit for long periods of time, the blood flow to muscles also reduces, causing our muscles to change in length – over time, this can lead to pain and postural problems.

The key to fighting this is to try and engage those muscles as often as you can throughout the day. Experts call this active siting. Here’s what to do:


It helps keep the discs of the back plumper and healthier and blood flow to the muscles is also better if we’re hydrated. “All cells of the body require water to survive and in the absence of movement, regular sips of water will at least help to preserve well-being,” advises exercise psychologist Jennifer Smallridge.

Don’t keep a bottle on your desk though – have a small glass and get up to refill it whenever it’s empty – every walk to the tap engages your muscles.


“You wouldn’t just eat two foods a day yet the whole time we’re awake we tend to alternate between two or three main postural positions,” says Dr Kelly Starrett, author of Deskbound: Standing Up to a Sitting World.

“Start varying things,” she suggests. For example, sit cross-legged on the floor to eat your breakfast, stand up on the bus, sit supported in your chair while typing but sit with your legs crossed to make phone calls.


The best way to prevent back pain is to position yourself with your lower back pushed right to the back of the chair. This is also the position in which your muscles do the least work, so every so often shuffle forward and sit right on the edge of your chair. “This immediately switches on your core and engages more muscles,” explains Dr Starrett.


“The simple act of standing up and having a five-second stretch once an hour reactivates every muscle that has been switched off,” says physiotherapist Ryan Ebert. “Stand up and throw your arms up as if you were having a really big yawn.”


If you really can’t stand up, Jennifer says to at least shuffle around in your chair. “Try pelvic walking, Put both feet on the floor and shuffle the right side of your pelvis forward and then the left so you’re moving back and forth on the seat. Then tilt your pelvis forward and back a few times. Finish with 20 short buttock squeezes.”


If you sit all day, doing the same when you get home at night compounds problems, so adopt a different posture at home. Stand while you cook, walk after dinner and avoid slumping on the sofa. “Lying on your stomach propped on your elbows is a great way to relax the lower back and relieve pressure on the spinal nerves,” says Jennifer. “I also like lying on a rolled-up towel. Place it lengthways under your body (running from head to tailbone) and lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor.”


Olivia Munn’s lifestyle and fitness regimen are as interesting a mix as the Asian-American actress herself

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While prepping for her role as Psylocke in Marvel’s X-Men: Apocalypse, Olivia took up sword training and subsequently lost about 5 kg. But, even though the movie has wrapped, she says she loved it so much that she continues to be dedicated to the sport. Word has it that she even has a sword closet at home.

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Olivia is a Black Belt in Taekwondo, and is well-versed in a few combat sports. She started training in Karate with her siblings at the age of five.

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According to Olivia’s personal trainer, Karine Lemieux, the actress’ training included more creative renditions of the traditional methods to stay in shape. For instance, Olivia is known to prefer kicking exercises over standard squat routines to tone her gluteus maximus muscles. Interestingly, Karine revealed, the Asian- American beauty never does the same regime twice, so they “made it different every day”.

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A southerner at heart, Olivia loves potatoes. She has even vouched for their health benefits on Instagram: “Japanese potatoes are high in hyaluronic acid; help keep wrinkles at bay.”

As for her diet, she’s found the perfect mix.She follows the 80/20 diet, in which she complements 80 per cent organic plantbased meals with 20 per cent fun foods – which allows her to indulge her love for onion rings and Kraft mac and cheese.

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Aside from Olivia’s usual preparations for her movie roles, she is also known to dabble into other forms of exercise like kickboxing and martial arts when she is not shooting.

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For someone who is known to spend six to seven hours in the gym when preparing for a role, Olivia had to be psyched into working out by a hypnotist, who also helped her get through her depression and anxiety issues. Although, she jokes about it on Instagram, she has admitted that since then if she skipped a day of exercise, she would double up and make up for it the next day. Today, she does 95 per cent of her own stunts.