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You might look at the slim frames of runners and the comparatively bulky bodies of powerlifters and conclude that it's not possible to burn calories without losing muscle. You don't have to give up your toned physique to shed fat, though. Instead, you'll need to focus on calorie-burning aerobic activity and find muscle-building activities that help you burn even more calories.
Take your usual aerobic workout to the next level by incorporating interval training. Interval training, according to the book "High Intensity Interval Training Explained," burns more calories than traditional aerobic exercise and can also help you build muscle. Work out at a slightly slower pace than usual, and then incorporate bursts of higher intensities. For example, if you're usually a jogger, try walking briskly for one to two minutes, then increase your pace to a sprint or run for a minute or two, gradually slowing to a walk. Aim for 20 to 30 minutes, alternating paces for the duration of your workout.
Try circuit training, which incorporates elements of calorie-burning aerobics and muscle-building strength training. You'll do two to three muscle-building activities such as biceps curls or pushups as part of your strength training "circuit." Follow this up with five minutes or so of cardiovascular exercise such as running. Then, return to a circuit of strength training that works a different area of your body from your previous circuit. You might, for example, target your lower body by doing leg presses and squats. Then do a different cardiovascular exercise. Aim for two to three sessions of cardiovascular exercise and two to three sessions of strength training, with two to three different exercises for each strength-training circuit.
Incorporate kettlebell swings into your workout. Instead of lifting kettlebells, you'll swing them through your full range of motion. This works large groups of muscles and can give you a strong aerobic workout, burning calories as you build muscle. Start with small kettlebells -- 5 pounds or less -- and as you gain strength, build up to larger ones. For a simple kettlebell workout, try passing the kettlebell hand-to-hand around your entire body. Then try a kettlebell deadlift, setting the weight on the ground, squatting to pick it up and slowly swinging it upward as you stand. Start with two to three reps of each type of kettlebell swing, gradually working up to 10 or so. A 20- to 30-minute kettlebell workout will give you a strong combination of strength training and cardiovascular exercise.
- The Mayo Clinic points out that it can take 300 minutes of exercise per week to lose weight, so structure your workout sessions so you can meet this goal.