Can you clock fewer hours at the gym and still maintain or improve your fitness? PT Scott Hunt shows us how.

Fitness: maintain or gain? - IMAGE - Women's Health and Fitness magazine

As it turns out, the 'more is more' mentality ignores the human body's finely tuned mechanics, and when it comes to working out, less can be a whole lot more.

So, how do we get fitter?

Personal trainer Scott Hunt from Fitness Enhancement says anything more than what you're doing now is a plus.

"If you've gone from doing nothing to doing half an hour a week, I'd say that's a 100 per cent improvement," says Hunt. "But it depends on how quickly you want results; think of it like a 10-kilometre drive: you could walk all the way and it would take you a long time, or you could floor it."

The fitness adaptions you create in your body are – like the maintenance of your fitness – dependent on the frequency, intensity and type of exercise, as well as the time dedicated to each session.

"To me it's more about how many sessions they can fit in each week. Sure, in an ideal world, people would exercise six days a week, but it's not an ideal world, and most people's motivation is far from ideal!"

The fact that you may not have the time or inclination to live in the gym doesn't have to quash your results, as long as you amp up the intensity to match.

"At Fitness Enhancement, we find that for most people who want amazing results, training three days a week is plenty. The key to success here is quality, not quantity, and, of course, sticking to the plan nutritionally each and every day."

Kilojoule-burning cardio fitness is great when maintaining your weight and cardiovascular health, but so is laying on metabolism-boosting muscle. So mixing up your routine with both is ideal.

Muscle

Maintain: "If you've only got three days, work your whole body each day you train," says Hunt. "If you're finding you're not recovered enough in between sessions, the good news is you're training hard enough to fatigue yourself that much so you can adapt it to a split program – training the lower body and abs for one session and upper body the next," he says.

Gain: "When your current weights get too easy, change them up for heavier ones. It's important to ensure you're always challenging your muscles – I'd say you could change your program almost weekly depending on where you're at."

 

Cardio fitness

Maintain: "Aim for at least one session a week where your heart rate is consistently elevated – like a one-hour run or bike ride at a steady pace – and aim for at least one where your heart rate is up and down, like interval or sprint training," says Hunt.

Gain: "Add in a muscular endurance session," says Hunt. "Essentially a strength-training program but with light weights and high reps and no breaks in between sets. While you will, of course, get strength conditioning out of this, the high reps make it much more aerobic. The goal of this session is to build that endurance in your muscles for when your lungs are doing great thanks to all the long runs, but your muscles are crying out for you to stop."

 

NEXT: Is your workout working for you