The quickie workout

Some fitness plans promise great results with brief workouts. But can you take these shortcuts to good health?

Perhaps you've seen one of these fitness guides at your local bookstore. Maybe a Curves franchise has opened in your area. The claim is that a few minutes of exercise a day will shape you up or slim you down.

But most studies show that you need much more exercise than that to prevent disease and weight gain. According to the federal government's guidelines, it takes an hour of moderately intense activity on most days to prevent unhealthy pounds from accumulating, and even more exercise to maintain weight loss. The guidelines recommend combining aerobic activity (which raises the heart rate and boosts cardiovascular health) with stretching exercises (which provide flexibility) and strength training (which makes muscles stronger).

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