How to Get in Shape in 6 Months

Start slow and increase your effort weekly to get fit.
i Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images

Six months is more than enough time to lose weight, build muscle and improve your cardio stamina and muscular endurance. Using a coordinated plan that increases the lengths of your workouts, raises the intensity of your exercises and controls your calories, you will start seeing results in a matter of weeks.

    Write down a workout schedule that includes 150 minutes of exercise for at least the first two months. Schedule 30-minute workouts, five times a week, or two 15-minute workouts, five days a week. Include backup days and times for your workouts in the event that you have to cancel one or more.

    Calculate a daily calorie goal using an online calorie calculator, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s free download “Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” or by meeting with a dietician. Factor in the number of calories you will burn through exercise each day, using an online calories-burned calculator or exercise chart that shows you the number of calories burned, based on your weight and the length of the activity.

    Create workout routines that raise your heart rate to a level that causes you to breath harder than normal, close to your maximum effort. Use exercise methods that raise your heart rate to a moderate intensity, or one that lets you exercise for at least 15 minutes, for the first several weeks. Bike, swim, walk up and down stairs, use an exercise machine, perform calisthenics or use other exercise methods that push you close to your limit. Include resistance exercises, which are those that require extra muscular effort to perform the movements. Consider using dumbbells, resistance bands, body-weight exercises or increased resistance settings on exercise machines that cause your muscles to get sore by the end of the workout.

    Increase the length of your workouts by five minutes each week until you can exercise for 30 minutes without stopping. Raise your heart rate and intensity of your exercises only after you can exercise for 30 minutes. For example, walk on a treadmill at 3 mph, adding five minutes to your workouts until you can go for 30 minutes at 3 mph. Begin raising your speed by 0.5 mph each week thereafter.

    Perform short intervals of high-intensity exercise during your workouts when you can exercise at a jogging speed for 30 minutes or more, which could take up to two months. Add 30-second to 60-second bursts of high-intensity moves every 10 minutes, then every five minutes, as you improve your conditioning. Follow every interval with one or two minutes of a slower recovery.

    Change your workouts every two weeks to avoid a plateau. Use different equipment, including different exercise machines. Exercise using different amounts of resistance each week. For example, perform one week of low-impact cardio exercises, raising your heart rate with quick muscle movements, rather than high-resistance settings on machines. Raise your heart rate the next week with slower more strenuous movements, using dumbbells, resistance bands or high-resistance settings on exercise machines.

    Plan each day’s eating in advance using food labels and online resources that give the calories for nonpackaged foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Spread your daily calories among breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snacks.

the nest