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The 15-Minute Cardio Workout

Pick up one of the many fitness magazines on the newsstands and you're bound to see exaggerated claims of "Lose 10 pounds in a week in only 15 minutes a day!" (Not eating for a week might help you lose 10 pounds, but we don't recommend it.) Please heed this warning: Run, don't walk, from any article or infomercial that makes such bold claims. Still, that doesn't mean that with a little creativity, you can't break a sweat and be productive.

As someone's sage grandmother once said, "It's the drops in the bucket that make a big puddle." Even if you only have 15 minutes to squeeze in a workout, you'll be improving your fitness compared to doing nothing at all. No, it's not enough time to transform you into a fitness model, but there are several techniques you can do to help you release stress, burn calories, and build muscle.

Left Foot, Right Foot
Let's get simple. The easiest, most basic thing you can do in 15 minutes to improve your fitness is to go for a power walk. No, power walking doesn't mean you talk on your cell phone while making business calls. And power walking isn't running. Nor is it a leisurely stroll where you window shop along the way – that's just not going to cut it in terms of caloric expenditure or health gains. And the final "not," power walking also isn't race walking, the Olympic sport that would garner you some very strange stares along the way.

Think of the pace you'd walk if you were going to the movies and didn't want to miss the opening credits (a moderate pace, right?). Now consider your speed if you were about to miss your flight to The Bahamas (double time, we're guessing).

While this walking stuff seems too easy or basic to be useful, consider the fact that "walking clubs" and classes are popping up all over the country. In fact, Jake Jacobson, author of Healthwalk to Fitness and considered "the father of health walking," says that if you walk at a good clip for 15 minutes you can burn about 100 calories. (A good benchmark will be to see if you can cover one mile in that time.) Plus, power walking doesn't require any equipment. (Speaking of which, don't bother with hand weights as you walk – they can throw off your stride and possibly increase your blood pressure.) And while 100 calories might not seem like a lot, the stress reduction is impossible to calculate. Walking with purpose (or just walking in general) clears your head and improves your circulation and digestion. Get really good at it and you might not have to break into a trot when you're late for your next flight.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Short Workouts © 2001 by Deidre Johnson-Cane, Jonathan Cane, and Joe Glickman. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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