Keeping fit is hard work. If you go through the effort of working out, you might as well be strategic and get the most out of your time.

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This can be difficult because the best strategies aren’t always intuitive. Luckily, we’ve done the research, and we’re happy to share what we’ve learned. Here are five simple tips for getting the most out of your workout. 

1. Save time and don’t sacrifice benefits with high-intensity workouts.

Walking, jogging, or cycling at a medium pace may not be doing you as much good as you think. Studies have shown that high-intensity aerobic exercise can offer many more benefits than low- or moderate-intensity workouts.

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In fact, high-intensity interval training can give you better results in less time. Whether you’re swimming, cycling, or jogging, do a two-minute warm up and then 20 seconds of all-out effort. Do two more intervals of two minutes of medium pace and 20 seconds of sprinting, and finish with a two-minute cooldown. While researchers don’t fully understand why this leads to better results, many studies have proven that it does (and in less time). 

2. Eat frequently through the day.

Eating smaller meals more frequently helps speed up your metabolism. This can lead to the surprising result of losing more weight than eating fewer meals.

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Eating more meals will give you energy and ensure that you have enough protein to build muscle. Just make sure to eat smart, focusing on protein and complex carbs while avoiding refined sugars.

3. Get enough sleep.

This one is important even if you aren’t exercising. When you start working out, getting sufficient sleep becomes crucial.

Your body needs plenty of rest to recover from workouts and repair muscles. If you’re not getting close to eight hours of sleep per night, you’re not getting the benefits you could.

4. Integrate working out into your daily life.

If you’re trying to change your life, you have to make small, sustainable changes for them to stick—that goes for dieting and working out as well.

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One of the keys to sustainability is making your workout as painless as possible. Exercising in front of the TV or playing in a rec league for a team sport could be ways to make working out more fun.

Just remember, if it takes a herculean effort to finish a workout, you probably won’t be able to keep it up for long. Doing smaller amounts over a longer period of time will yield better results than going gangbusters every once in a while.

5. Make a plan and stick to it.

Now that you know a few keys to optimizing your workout, you can plan your routine. You’ll save time by utilizing high-intensity interval training. Plus, you can use that extra time to get a little more sleep and more fully recover.

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On top of that, eating the right foods over the course of the day is vital to building muscle and staying trim. Most important of all, make sure the changes you make are sustainable. Being healthy requires a lifelong commitment, and the easiest way to achieve that is with small steps.

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