Pity the poor yo-yo. For something that started as pure fun, it has been keeping grim company of late. First, weight loss researchers coined the term "yo-yo dieting" to describe intermittent weight loss efforts that leave people heavier and heavier. And now there is yo-yo exercising: Repeatedly starting and stopping a workout routine makes weight gain likely and weight loss more challenging, according to data from the National Runners' Health Study. After a lapse, men had to run at least 16 miles a week before pounds started to come off; women had to log more than 29.
If you can stick to a regular regimen, research suggests that you won't have to spend hours at the gym to gain many of exercise's benefits. With only an hour or so a week—provided you're putting out real effort—you can protect your heart and avoid adding pounds.
So the perfect exercise plan doesn't have to be time consuming, just engaging enough that you'll stay with it. That's the appeal of New York trainer Michael Gonzalez-Wallace's program: All he asks is 10 minutes a day, six days a week. He saves you time by combining standard gym classics—doing biceps curls while lunging. And the light weights and high repetitions Gonzalez-Wallace prescribes deliver a strength workout at the same time as an aerobic one. He also incorporates balance challenges such as standing on one leg while extending weights away from your core. But the best part about the plan is that it's fun, keeping you out of the yo-yo trap. Gonzalez-Wallace shows you how.
Guidelines: Start with two-to-five pound weights, although Gonzalez-Wallace says beginners can use standard full half-liter water bottles. Do one set of the exercises with 30 seconds of rest between each, then repeat. All together, this should take about 10 minutes.
A good measure of your effort is that you're breathing hard but still able to carry on a conversation. When the moves become easy and you need more of a challenge, you can increase the weight of the dumbbells by a pound or two, do more repetitions per set—25 to 30—or add an extra set of each exercise.