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A reward of regular exercise: Faster metabolism

couple exercisingAs people get older, it's not uncommon to make excuses for weight gain. After all, bloating happens. The dryer can shrink clothes. And yes, metabolism slows down somewhat as you age. But the simple matter is that weight gain is usually due to decreased activity while eating habits stay the same or get worse.

Fortunately, it is possible to give your metabolism – the process in which your body converts the fuel in food into energy – a boost. And exercise is the best way to do it.

Burning calories
If you haven't drastically changed your eating habits but your thighs are jiggly, a once-flat midsection is spilling over the waistband of your favorite jeans and the scale shows an unfamiliar number, it's possible your basal metabolic rate (BMR) has slowed down.

BMR measures the rate at which your body burns calories while at rest. Someone with a low BMR will gain more weight over time than a similar-sized person with a higher BMR.

When you consume more calories than your body needs, the body stores them as excess fat. The number of calories you burn each day is determined by how much you exercise as well as the amount of fat and muscle in your body. Although heredity can be partially responsible for a low BMR, it is possible to change your resting metabolism through increasing your physical fitness. When people gain more muscle and lose fat, they generally have higher BMRs and burn more calories at rest (yes, weight management while sleeping!).

Exercise: More than meets the eye
Getting in shape and revving up your metabolism can do more than help you stop making excuses for the way your clothing fits. Regular workouts – combined with healthy eating – can lower your risk for heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and some cancers. Talk to your doctor about an exercise program that is best for your health and well-being.

Other metabolism boosters
Exercise is the tried-and-true way to increase metabolism, but evidence shows these healthy eating habits can help, too.

Begin your day with breakfast. Jump-start your metabolism each day with a nutritious breakfast. Whole grains (oatmeal or 100 percent whole-wheat toast) with fruit or a vegetable omelet are good choices.
Eat small, frequent meals. Eating six small meals throughout the day can help ward off hunger and overeating.

Avoid trans fat. Consuming baked goods, donuts and french fries made with partially hydrogenated oil (trans fat) makes it more difficult for your body to burn fat. Trans fats can lead to weight gain and insulin resistance, risk factors for heart disease and diabetes.

Other Resources
Learn more about boosting your metabolism in our Health Encyclopedia.