How Does Exercise Affect Metabolism and Weight Loss?

Metabolic rates and weight loss have a lot in common, especially when you throw exercise into the mix. Regardless of how active you are, how much you move affects your metabolism and weight. 

Determining dietary changes and how much exercise you need depends on your metabolic rate. Everyone’s metabolism is different: age, gender, and activity impact your basal metabolic rate (BMR) or resting metabolism. 

Genetics determine where muscle and fat sit and your resting metabolic rate. Specific fitness programs offer faster metabolisms. As a result, this takes dedication and commitment. So let’s explore how exercise affects your metabolism and weight loss goals.

What Does Your Metabolism Do?

Most importantly, your metabolism breaks down any food or drink you consume into energy. No matter what you fuel your body with, your metabolism converts it to keep you moving. But, of course, what you eat matters.

Energy conversion in your body helps with breathing, hormones, and cell repair and growth. It’s also a pretty stable process, making sudden changes in diet (e.g., fad diets) relatively pointless and ineffective. 

How Does Metabolism Affect Weight?

A common myth about “slow metabolisms” is that they cause weight gain. Sure, BMRs slow as we age, but weight gain is unavoidable, but not so rapidly. More likely, it’s any one of several underlying causes that cause weight gain, such as:

  • Genetics
  • Diet composition
  • Environment
  • Sleep
  • Stress

When you eat more calories than you burn, weight gain occurs. Lifestyle changes often result in poor eating habits or less physical activity. Although some people have higher and lower BMRs, caloric deficits and increased physical activity result in weight loss. Changing how your metabolism affects weight depends on two things:

  • Thermogenesis: body’s processes for food from digestion, absorption, transport, and storage, all of which use calories
  • Physical activity: daily movement and exercise determine the calories burnt daily

Nonexercise activity plays a vital role in determining your BMR. However, if you have a sedentary career, your physical activity is likely higher than someone who works all day.

How Physical Activity Affects the Metabolism

Even though your resting metabolic rate stays relatively constant, exercise increases caloric expenditure. The more you move, the more energy you use, and the more calories you burn. Let’s look at the different activities you can try to help boost your metabolism.

Aerobics and Cardio

Different types of physical activity affect the body in different ways. For example, aerobic and cardio exercises burn more calories in the short term, temporarily elevating digestion and metabolic rates. They’re also the easiest to squeeze into a busy schedule. Just 30 minutes a day makes a world of difference. You can walk, cycle, swim, or participate in heart-racing pilates or yoga.

If you’re worried about meeting a weight threshold (e.g., loss or gain), the duration of your workout may need to increase. Not everyone has the time or motivation to work out for a half-hour, let alone even longer. Instead, try ten-minute bursts here and there. You can target different muscle groups, use it as a break in a busy day, and work towards fitness goals.

Strength Training

Although cardio is the default fitness routine, building muscles helps with weight loss, too. Strength training builds muscle and burns more calories than fat tissue. Therefore, you don’t have to become a bulky bodybuilder to build muscle. On the other hand, some people worry that “bulkiness” takes concentrated effort and extreme diet changes.

Regular strength training just twice a week can make a vast difference. You can even build it into cardio exercises for a double benefit. And most strength exercises can be done with bodyweight, meaning you don’t even need a gym membership to get stronger and build muscle.

What Doesn’t Work: Magic Pills and Fad Diets.

There’s no such thing as a magic weight loss pill or cure-all diet. Trying to force your metabolism to work faster and more efficiently with juice cleanses and detoxes rarely offers any positive, let alone desirable, results. Instead, suddenly decreasing nutrients and caloric intake can shock your system, sending cravings through the roof.

Even though fat burner supplements do work, they do not cause weight loss to a certain extent. Instead, they are designed to block fat and carb absorption. Some also stimulate the metabolism, causing it to work faster and quickly. While a doctor or nutritionist may recommend a supplement like this, it’s likely paired with specific dietary and exercise changes.

The most successful way to increase your BMR and reach weight loss goals is through a healthy diet and exercise. Without repetition and consistency, your metabolic rate will return to its natural state. 

Plus, building habits around your diet and physical activity make it harder to deviate from them – even with any unanticipated lifestyle changes. So instead, find a workout that fits your lifestyle and get started.

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